There was a reason that Head Coach John Harbaugh called Sunday’s game a “must-win.”
It was more than where a loss would have landed the Ravens in the standings. At worst, they still would have been tied for first place in the AFC North.
It was because the Ravens had a lot to prove to themselves following a blowout loss in Houston, one that they had to hear about and think about over the bye.
Sunday’s 25-15 win in Cleveland was as much mental as it was physical.
“There’s a lot of turning points in the season,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a lot of things that make or break your season, and this won’t be the last one. But this is definitely a turning point. We turned a corner today.”
Harbaugh talked about his team playing with “faith” in each other, a type of bonding that a head coach likes to see from his players.
The offense stalled after a fast 14-point start, logging six straight three-and-outs. It had -2 yards over seven straight drives that spanned from near the end of the second quarter to the start of the fourth.
While the offense was struggling, defensive players such as
“We have lots to work on,” Harbaugh said. “We had lots to work on last week, we’re going to have lots to work on next week.
“We’re going to try to become a great football team. We’re not there by any stretch. But we have a chance to get there if we all come together and do the things we need to do to get there.”
While the Ravens wanted to perform more consistently on offense, they weren’t licking any wounds afterwards.
In fact, they seemed to be getting used to this sort of victory.
“You’re never going to complain about first place,” running back
The Ravens have had close wins in five of their six victories: against New England, versus Cleveland, in Kansas City, against Dallas and in Cleveland. The Ravens have had only one win where they didn’t have to bite their nails: Week 1 against Cincinnati in a 44-13 victory.
They had lost two of their three games on the road this season.
“To win a division game on the road – everybody knows how tough it is to win on the road – it’s really good,” Rice said. “We’ve never been fancy. We’ve never been a pretty kind of team. I think the way we’re winning games is just the way we continue to win. We always find ourselves at the top at the end.”
The Ravens, and especially Harbaugh, gave loads of credit to the Browns. While Harbaugh has beaten Cleveland 10 straight times and it fell to 2-7 with the loss, the Browns entered the game winning two of their last three, both at home.
“That was a fight,” Harbaugh said to start the press conference.
“We’ll tip our hats to the Browns, first of all. I’m going to tell you what, that is a really good football team. That is a very well-coached football team. They’re physical, they’re tough, they’re disciplined. They’ve got all the tools. They’re young and they’re building something here.”
He then went into a reference by former NFL Head Coach Buddy Ryan about there not being any pushovers in the league. Ryan once said, “There ain't no East Carolinas in this league.”
“People have great players. This is not college football,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no homecoming opponents. This is the NFL. There’s not going to be a lot of pretty, there’s really not.”