Notes: Ravens Have to Go 4 Quarters

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Last week, as the Ravens were warming up before their Week 13 game at M&T Bank Stadium, the SmartVision boards were broadcasting the Pittsburgh Steelers' matchup with the Dallas Cowboys.

Baltimore headed into the locker room with the Cowboys up 13-3 in the third quarter. By the time the Ravens returned, Pittsburgh had claimed a 20-13 victory after scoring 17 fourth-quarter points.

With the Steelers coming to M&T Bank Stadium this weekend, it reminded some Ravens about the time the Steelers came back from a 13-3 deficit to take a 23-20 contest in overtime earlier in the year.

"They've done it to us before," defensive tackle Justin Bannan said of Pittsburgh's resiliency. "We know this is a team you can't take lightly late in games. You have to play them to the final whistle, or you'll see them creep up on you."

In fact, the Dallas game marked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 16th career regular-season comeback in the fourth quarter, something he's done four times in 2008.

Starting with Baltimore's Week 4 loss, the Steelers trailed Jacksonville 21-20 in the final period the next Sunday. Roethlisberger engineered an 80-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown under the two-minute warning.

In Week 11, Roethlisberger marched 73 yards on 13 plays to set up a game-winning field goal with 11 seconds remaining.

"We play running backs, and we say, 'You have to tackle this guy to the ground,'" said linebacker Jarret Johnson. "That might be an odd statement, but it means that you have to wrap up and bring them all the way to the ground. Pittsburgh is like that as a team. You can't just beat them in the first or second quarter. You have to beat them the entire game.

"Pittsburgh is a 60-minute team. You have to beat them into the ground."

The Ravens have seen their share of dominance in the waning minutes, however.

Baltimore has outscored opponents 98-33 in the fourth quarter, including 91-10 in their last seven wins. Over the past nine contests, the Ravens have only allowed 13 points in the final period.

Additionally, the Ravens have held the ball for an average of 18:33 in the second half all season, which is the NFL's highest mark for time of possession.

Such production is the result of stout defense and a ball-control offense doing their jobs.

"We can help our defense out in those situations when we're going on the ground," said fullback Le'Ron McClain, who leads the Ravens' fifth-best rushing attack with 606 yards on 162 carries. "Keep the ball out of [the Steelers'] hands and give our defenses a rest so they can stop them when they need to in the fourth quarter."

Rice Doubtful

Rookie running back Ray Rice is doubtful for Sunday's game with a bad contusion on his left calf.

Rice, who is third on the team with 107 rushes for 454 yards, did not practice all week.

"I think it'll be [a] game time [decision]," said head coach John Harbaugh. "He's definitely getting better, moving around a lot better. We're hopeful that he can get back, so I'd say it'll be game time."

Meanwhile, left tackle Jared Gaither (shoulder), kicker Matt Stover (ankle), wideout Derrick Mason (shoulder) and safety Jim Leonhard (illness) were all limited in Friday's practice. Their status was listed as probable.

Noise Factor

Last week, the Ravens set a Baltimore football attendance record when 71,438 fans packed M&T Bank Stadium for the nationally-televised Sunday night contest.

Harbaugh, who previously coached 10 years with the Philadelphia Eagles, said he was taken aback by the incredible noise generated in the stands.

"We had never played here in the regular season [with the Eagles]," Harbaugh said. "It was preseason, and I was amazed in the preseason game how loud it was. Then to be here in the regular season, early in the season it was loud, but last week was over the top.

"I'm sure it'll even be louder in this game. This is, if not the loudest stadium in the league… I'm not sure there's a louder one."

While crowd noise can be a factor in altering the way an offense operates, the other side of that that is how it affects communication on defense. To practice for that, the Ravens installed large speakers to pipe in noise while the defensive package was installed Friday.

"Our concern is that our defense has to communicate," explained the coach. "That's why we did crowd noise on the defensive side of the ball. We want our fans being loud to disrupt their offense, but we can't let it disrupt our defense, so we've got to handle communication with that."

Notable

The Ravens have done an excellent job of cutting down on personal foul penalties, as the last one came from linebacker Antwan Barnesfor taunting in Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins. "It's been a point of emphasis from the get-go, and [we've] been applying it," Harbaugh said. "How do you apply it to situations is part of the process with guys coming to a way that we're going to approach things. Our team understands that things that aren't helpful, we just can't do, and most of those things aren't helpful. So I'm proud of the fact that they've cleaned that stuff up, but it needs to carry over into Sunday and through the rest of the season." … Baltimore is 14-6 dating back to 2000 when playing at home in December. … Johnson brushed off a vicious block delivered by Steelers wideout Hines Ward in their previous meeting. Ward is known for throwing crushing hits to unsuspecting defenders, and even broke the jaw of Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers earlier this year. "It's just part of playing on defense," said Johnson. "A lot of times, when you peel around, you have to keep your head on a swivel, because you're going to get cracked, but a lot of teams don't have the receivers willing to block. He's willing to throw it in there." … Pittsburgh has averaged 11.4 points in five consecutive losses at M&T Bank Stadium.

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