Sports

Imperfect Ravens face perfect scenario: In control of AFC No. 1 seed

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens may not be the AFC’s best team, but they have been the best at figuring out ways to win.

Their victories include: two fourth-quarter comebacks from double-digit deficits, a record-setting field goal in Detroit and a last-minute winning drive by a backup quarterback in his first start.

The latest improbable win came Sunday night, when Baltimore defeated the Cleveland Browns, 16-10, despite Lamar Jackson throwing four interceptions. The last time an NFL quarterback won when throwing four interceptions was 2013, when Jackson was a junior in high school.

As a result, the Ravens (8-3) are back atop the AFC with six games remaining. But can the Ravens beat the biggest odds facing them and hold onto the No. 1 seed?

“We’re in control of our own destiny, which is a beautiful thing,” Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. “We’ve got to get better in every aspect, but we’ve got a bunch of fighters on this team. Like I said, we believe, we trust each other, and we’re going to come each and every day to work, to get better, just trying to be the best team we can be. I think if we do that throughout these weeks — especially these divisional games — we’re going to reap the benefits of that.”

Baltimore took over the top spot after Tennessee (8-4) lost at the New England Patriots (8-4). Recent history says it will be tough for the Ravens to remain there. In the past 10 seasons, only two teams — the 2014 New England Patriots and 2018 Kansas City Chiefs — finished with the No. 1 seed after holding that spot with six weeks remaining in the regular season.

Baltimore’s remaining schedule is formidable and includes two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, road games at Cleveland and Cincinnati and home games against the Green Bay Packers and the Los Angeles Rams.

The only time the Ravens entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed was 2019, when they steamrolled their way to a 14-2 mark. Baltimore dominated teams so badly it was common to see Jackson sitting out the fourth quarter.

This season, Jackson and the Ravens have been sitting on the edge of their seats toward the end of games. Baltimore rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to upend the Chiefs in Week 2 and then came back from 16 points down in the fourth against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5. The Ravens needed a history-making, 66-yard field goal to edge out the Detroit Lions in Week 3.

A week ago in Chicago, quarterback Tyler Huntley filled in for a sick Jackson and led a winning drive in the game’s final minute. On Sunday night, the Ravens defense shut down the Browns to allow Baltimore to overcome Jackson’s career-worst four interceptions.

Baltimore has won six straight one-score games (within eight points), which matches the longest win streak in these close games in franchise history. The Ravens also did so in 2012, the year of their last Super Bowl title.

“We’re not perfect, but we’re fighting our way to get there,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told his players in the locker room Sunday night. “The good news is, on our way, we’re winning. I don’t know exactly what that was. I don’t know how to describe it exactly. But we all know what it was — it was a ‘W.’”

According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the No. 1 seed (which is the only team in the conference to get a bye) is up for grabs. The best chances to capture the top spot are: the Titans (24.1%), Ravens (22.3%), Patriots (19.8%) and Bills (17.9%).

But Baltimore has been overachieving all season. Few would have predicted the Ravens would have a better record than the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans after losing All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), All Pro cornerback Marcus Peters (knee) and their top two running backs in J.K. Dobbins (knee) and Gus Edwards (knee) to season-ending injuries.

“We’re determined. We know we want to win,” Jackson said. “We fight adversity, and we do it all. There’s been a lot going on throughout this whole season, and [Sunday] was another part of it. We just have to keep on doing what we’re doing, and we’re going to click.”

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