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Ravens hope to ride momentum from win in San Diego

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Ravens hope to ride momentum from win in San Diego

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Ray Rice's incredible fourth-down journey through the San Diego defense helped the Baltimore Ravens move closer to a second straight division title.

It's also possible that Rice's catch-and-run gem - a 29-yard gain on a fourth-and-29 situation in Sunday's 16-13 overtime victory - could ultimately be the defining moment for a team in the hunt to secure the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

``We'll see what it means, if we can capitalize on it and stack some success on top of that,'' coach John Harbaugh said Monday.

Baltimore punted on all six first-half possessions and trailed 13-10 when Rice weaved his way up the field to secure a first down at the San Diego 34 with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter. The 5-foot-8 running back eluded several tackles, received a crushing block from wide receiver Anquan Boldin and finally lunged forward to cover the necessary yardage.

``It's going to go down in history. It was just a remarkable play ... the greatest play I've ever seen or been a part of,'' Harbaugh said. ``It was 11 guys who made the play happen. One guy had a real big role in it. It was a sensational play by Ray Rice.''

Had the Ravens lost, they would have dropped into a tie with New England and Denver for second-best record in the AFC. Instead, Baltimore (9-2) remained a game behind Houston for the best record in the conference and retained its grip on the No. 2 seed.

The Ravens have played seven games decided by seven points or fewer. They have won six of them.

``We know how to win football games,'' quarterback Joe Flacco said. ``We've done a great job of that over the years. It wasn't perfect, but not every game is going to be perfect. When you can grind one out in the end like that it shows that you're a tough football team with a lot of resilience that knows how to win.''

Said Rice: ``We firmly believed we were going to get the first down.''

If the Ravens (9-2) beat fading Pittsburgh (6-5) this Sunday and Cincinnati loses to San Diego, Baltimore will clinch the AFC North title.

``The thing our guys have done is, as a team, they've positioned themselves really well to take advantage of an opportunity,'' Harbaugh said. ``That's what you try to do. Every game makes the next game that much more important.''

The Ravens have won four straight, all without injured linebacker Ray Lewis, who's been sidelined since Oct. 14 with a torn right triceps. To most players, a torn triceps is a season-ending injury.

Knowing how resilient Lewis is, Baltimore placed him on the injured reserve/designated for return list. And now it appears as if Lewis might be back in the weeks ahead.

``I think he will. That's a best guess,'' Harbaugh said. ``He's working hard to do that. There have been no setbacks, so there's a possibility.''

Baltimore's defense has done just fine without Lewis. After holding the Steelers to 10 points one week earlier, the Ravens had six sacks and limited the Chargers to 280 yards over nearly five quarters.

``Defensively, we played pretty well throughout,'' Harbaugh said. ``But as the game went along, we got better on defense. We tackled better. We defended better. We are improving on defense, and we improved throughout the course of the game.''

Still, the Ravens wouldn't love to have Lewis back. The 37-year-old worked the sideline in San Diego, offering advice and encouragement while dressed in a sweatsuit. But he's far more valuable on the field.

``It would be great to get Ray Lewis back. All of our guys would welcome Ray back with open arms if and when that happens,'' Harbaugh said. ``Adding a great player into the mix is only going to make us better.''

The Ravens made a roster move Monday, placing safety Anthony Levine on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. David Reed, last year's starting kick returner, was activated from the physically unable to perform list.

Harbaugh said tight end Ed Dickson (knee) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (ankle) will likely practice sparingly this week but could play against the Steelers.

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Report: Boldin to sign with Lions

Report: Boldin to sign with Lions

Former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin is back for a 14th season.

Boldin, who turns 36 in October, will sign a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. In Detroit, Boldin will be reunited with Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who became the Ravens offensive coordinator during their run to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season.

The Lions had a major void at wide receiver with All-Pro Calvin Johnson's retirement.

RELATED: RAVENS AGREE TO ONE-YEAR DEAL WITH OL JAKE LONG

A former second-round draft pick, Boldin spent seven seasons with the Cardinals before the Ravens traded for him in 2010. In three seasons with the Ravens, Boldin averaged 62 catches and 882 yards. He came up huge in the 2012 playoff run, with a team-best 22 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns. He had six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl win over the 49ers.

After that Super Bowl run, though, Boldin was traded to the 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick. Boldin led the 49ers in catches and receiving yards in each of the past three years. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the 49ers in 2013 and 2014, leading many to question the Ravens decision to trade him. Last season, Boldin led the 49ers with 69 catches for 789 yards.

Boldin enters this season ranked 17th in NFL history with 13,195 receiving yards. One of the few players ahead of him is current Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr., who ranks 11th (13,392). Boldin last season became the 13th player in NFL history with 1,000 career receptions and now has 1,009. Smith, incidentally, needs 39 catches this season join Boldin in the 1,000-catch club.

MORE RAVENS: RETURNING PUNTS KEY FOR 3 RAVENS WR'S ON BUBBLE

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Ravens agree to one-year deal with former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long

Ravens agree to one-year deal with former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long

The Ravens are expected to sign veteran offensive lineman Jake Long after he flies into Baltimore on Tuesday night, CSN has confirmed. The impending Long-Ravens deal was first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN, who reported that Long and the Ravens had agreed to a one-year deal. That contract is expected to be signed if there were no last-minute concerns once Long arrived in town.

Long is a former Pro Bowl left tackle with the Dolphins who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft. He spent five seasons with the Dolphins, before joining the Rams for two seasons, then playing four games with the Falcons last season. Long is still only 31 years old, but he has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons, including two torn ACL’s.

The Ravens view Long as insurance at left tackle to as a backup to first-round pick Ronnie Stanley. While the Ravens believe Stanley can handle the starting job, the Ravens were left thin at the position after releasing veteran Eugene Monroe, who has since retired. James Hurst has been the Ravens’ backup left tackle, but in Long, the Ravens would have a more experienced option should Stanley struggle or suffer an injury.

RELATED: RETURNING PUNTS KEY FOR 3 RAVENS WR'S ON BUBBLE

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For three Ravens WR's on bubble, returning punts could be key

For three Ravens WR's on bubble, returning punts could be key

The Ravens don’t know who their primary punt returner will be, but they have plenty of options heading into training camp.

Keenan Reynolds, Michael Campanaro, and Kaelin Clay should all get reps returning punts. All three of those wide receivers are on the roster bubble, making their contributions on special teams even more important.

Campanaro has shown he can contribute as a wide receiver when he’s healthy.  However, avoiding injuries has been a major issue for Campanaro during his first two seasons.

The Ravens would prefer their punt returner to help the 53-man roster in another capacity, which may give Campanaro an edge. But if Campanaro, Reynolds, and Clay are not among the top six wide receivers when final cuts have to be made, will the Ravens decide to keep any of them strictly for their ability to return punts?

Reynolds will be a popular storyline during camp, as he tries to make the transition from Navy quarterback to NFL wide receiver. If Reynolds shows promise as a receiver, it will increase his chances of making the team, because his speed and ability to change direction will likely translate well to returning punts. Meanwhile, Clay had an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Browns last season, so he has already shown explosiveness as a returner.

Figuring out their best option for returning punts is one of many things on the Ravens’ to-do list, with the first full-squad practice scheduled for Thursday.