It doesn't matter how the wins look, especially at this point of the season.
The Ravens reminded themselves of that fact after Saturday's 23-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on a rain-soaked evening at M&T Bank Stadium. The victory certainly had its share of nervous moments, but the Ravens leaned on their offense for another quality performance to maintain control of their playoff destiny and improve to 9-6 on the season.
"We would have liked to play the perfect game, but it didn't happen that way," veteran leader Terrell Suggs said. "We played good enough to win. That's all that counts in December football – wins and losses. But we won and we put ourselves in a very fortunate situation."
The Colts (3-12) came into the game with injuries to several key players and no shot at the postseason, but they played hard to the end. They rallied late into the fourth quarter and had a chance to potentially take a go-ahead lead on their final possession after a blocked punt.
The game wasn't in hand until second-year cornerback Maurice Canady batted down a fourth-down pass deep in Baltimore territory with less than two minutes remaining.
"It wasn't our best game on defense, but we got it done when we needed to the most," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the thing – it's a win. It counts as the same number of wins if you win by a blowout. It doesn't matter. You have to find a way to win at the end in this league."
Baltimore's defense had some worrisome moments and allowed the Colts to march down the field on long scoring drives. They struggled to slow down veteran running back Frank Gore, who rushed for 68 yards on 17 carries, and receiver T.Y. Hilton also racked up 100 receiving yards. Pro Bowlers Eric Weddle and C.J. Mosley also dropped critical interceptions in the fourth quarter.
Indianapolis only found the end zone once, but veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri booted three field goals.
As the defense struggled, the Ravens leaned on their surging offense.
Quarterback Joe Flacco played his fourth-straight impressive game, completing 29-of-38 passes for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He orchestrated five long drives of at least 10 plays in difficult weather conditions, and the offense showed again that it's capable of carrying the team when the defense falters.
"It was still a big team victory," Flacco said. "They're not always pretty and I think these are good tests for later."
Flacco and several key players stressed the value of winning a close game. All of Baltimore's previous wins had actually come in fairly dominant fashion – they had outscored opponents 231-71 in their previous eight wins – but they had to win a tight game Saturday.
"These really test the character of the football team and you can really find out a lot about what you have," Flacco said. "Our goal is to get to the playoffs, and once you get to those games you can't rely on winning those games by 20-30 points. You have to rely on playing 60 minutes being able to have the nerves and everything else that goes along with that."
The Ravens came into the game tied with the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans in the AFC playoff picture, and they now have a clear path to the postseason. Baltimore can now secure its first postseason bid since 2014 with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals next weekend.
They have a long holiday weekend to enjoy Saturday's win against the Colts, before returning to work with their eyes on January football.
"It means you're battle-tested. We have been through every type of situation this year," Suggs said. "It is going to take a phenomenal effort on our part next week. We are putting all our eggs in one basket. Everything is on the line to play a division foe."
Check out the scenes from M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens host the Colts in week 16 of the NFL season!