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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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Ravens hope to force Brady into kind of mistakes he rarely makes

Ravens hope to force Brady into kind of mistakes he rarely makes

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has thrown just one interception this season.

That’s one of the many challenges facing the Ravens (7-5) as they prepare for Monday night’s game at New England (10-2). The Ravens’ defense is tied for fifth in the NFL with 22 takeaways – 14 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. But Brady is a quarterback that rarely turns it over, with 19 touchdown passes and just one interception in 302 passing attempts.

Can the Ravens force Brady into uncharacteristic mistakes? It won’t be easy. Watching Brady on film, coach John Harbaugh sees a quarterback who looks as good as he ever has.

“If he’s lost anything physically, he definitely makes up for it with his mind and his experience,” Harbaugh said. “He’s moving very well. He’s moving around the pocket very well and creating throws for himself in the pocket. I don’t really see any diminished skill set whatsoever.”

Even if the Ravens can’t force Brady into interceptions, their pass rush could make his job a lot more difficult. The more pressure the Ravens can get on Brady, the less time he will have to pick them apart.

When the Seahawks won at New England last month, they sacked Brady twice, intercepted him, and held him without a touchdown pass. That’s the blueprint the Ravens hope to follow. However, the two starting quarterbacks with the best TD-interception ration are Brady (19-1) and Dak Prescott (19-2) of the Cowboys. Prescott threw three TD passes and no interceptions against the Ravens last month and beat them. The Ravens hope for better success against Brady.

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Ravens safety Eric Weddle was nearly a Patriot this season

Ravens safety Eric Weddle was nearly a Patriot this season

When Eric Weddle was released by the San Diego Chargers after last season he had plenty of offers to sign with other NFL teams.

One of those teams was the New England Patriots, the team Weddle will play against on Monday Night Football this week. 

When the two-time All-Pro safety hit the open market, he said he was looking to play for a winning organization. He ended up choosing the Ravens over the Patriots because there was a more clear-cut opportunity for playing time. 

“I’m good buddies with Patrick Chung,” he said. “I grew up playing with him and Devin McCourty is one of the best to play, so I don’t know if it would have worked out personnel-wise. But obviously, I could have seen myself fitting in there seamlessly.”

Although the Ravens don't have quite as many wins as the Patriots this season, Weddle clearly made a good choice. The Ravens are tied for first place in the AFC North with the Steelers and Weddle is currently the highest graded safety in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. 

The Ravens defense is playing dominant football as a whole as well. Through week 13 Baltimore ranks first in the NFL in total defense surrenduring just 296.1 yards per game. 

RELATED: Weddle consumes a gallon of ice cream after Ravens wins