The Ravens are going to the playoffs as champions of the AFC North.
Winning their first division title since 2012, Baltimore defeated the Cleveland Browns, 26-24, on Sunday to complete a successful late-season run into the playoffs.
Entering the postseason as the No. 4 seed, the Ravens will host the fifth-seeded Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Jan. 6 at 1:05 p.m.
It took everything the Ravens had to beat the Browns (7-8-1), who threatened to win on their final possession by driving to Baltimore’s 39-yard-line with 1:18 left to play. But with their season on the line, the Ravens’ No. 1-ranked defense iced the game by forcing Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield into four straight incompletions.
Mayfield’s final pass on fourth-and-10 was intercepted by Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley, who made a terrific play by anticipating the throw. M&T Bank Stadium erupted in joy, as a large group of Ravens’ players ran toward the opposite end zone to celebrate.
“It felt like it was in the air forever,” Mosley said of his interception.
But after Mosley grabbed the pass, the Ravens (10-6) had finally grabbed their spot in the playoffs. They won six of their last seven games and will enter the postseason as one of the NFL’s hottest teams. It is their seventh playoff appearance and third division title under Head Coach John Harbaugh.
The last time the Ravens won the division, they capped the 2012 postseason by winning Super Bowl XLVII.
After the game, Harbaugh reflected on the resiliency it took for this team to win a division title.
“If you want to write a book about this season, probably no one would believe it,” Harbaugh said. “Not just this season, go back a year. Just a year ago we were in this exact same place and our guys fought through all of that. It wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t going to be something that was going to fall into our lap.
“This is the best team I’ve ever been associated with, 34 years in coaching, and even back to pee wee. The best bunch of guys who understand what it means to have each other’s backs, to fight through adversity.”
This is the fifth division title in Ravens history (2003, ’06, ’11, ’12, ‘18) and it appeared unlikely as recently as Week 11, when Baltimore had a 4-5 record and still trailed the Pittsburgh Steelers by 2 ½ games. However, the Ravens hit their stride after the bye, changing their offense dramatically when rookie Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback for an injured Joe Flacco.
The Ravens became the NFL’s best rushing team with Jackson under center, and Sunday’s victory was another example.
Baltimore rushed for a season-high 296 yards, Jackson rushed for two touchdowns, and backup running back Kenneth Dixon rushed for a career-high 117 yards on just 12 carries. Rolling to a 20-7 lead, Baltimore rushed for 179 yards in the first half, the fourth-highest rushing total for any half in team history.
Baltimore enters the playoffs with an excellent postseason track record under Harbaugh. In six previous playoff appearances, Harbaugh has never lost his opening playoff game, and his overall postseason record is 10-5.
In a sense, the Ravens have already been in playoff mode, faced with must-win situations week after week. Now officially in the postseason, the Ravens will face a strong Chargers team that Baltimore defeated, 22-10, Week 16 in Los Angeles.
Beating a team as good as the Chargers (12-4) twice in three weeks won’t be easy. But the Ravens look forward to the challenge.
“We’re one of the last 12 teams playing, and we’re going to do something great,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “This team’s kind of writing its own story.”
Check out the best photos from Sunday's Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns.