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With Division Title Still Within Arm's Reach, Ravens Focus Eyes Forward


Head Coach John Harbaugh stood in front of his players in the locker room after a 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots and told them to pack up the busses as quickly as they could and get back to Baltimore.

They have more work to do, and there's no time to waste.

The loss in Foxboro was a tough one to swallow, but it didn't change a whole lot for the Ravens in their quest to win the AFC North.

Win their final three games and the Ravens are the division champions; it's that simple.

"We know where we stand and the situation we are in," Harbaugh said. "We basically have to win three games, and we're certainly fully capable of doing that."

Despite the offense's rough outing and the defense's uncharacteristic big plays allowed in the loss to the Patriots, the Ravens rallied from a 20-point deficit thanks to two special-teams turnovers, and had a chance to win late in Foxboro.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and the Ravens weren't interested in taking any comfort from New England. Yes, Baltimore had a chance to steal a tough road win against the AFC's current top seed and quarterback Tom Brady, but the Patriots controlled much of the game.

"I don't know what a shot in the mouth feels like, but I can almost guarantee this can be similar," Suggs said. "We didn't come here for no moral victory."

The Ravens fell to 7-6 after the loss and are now a game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, and trail in the wild-card hunt behind the Denver Broncos (8-5) and Miami Dolphins (8-5).

Baltimore's best route to the playoffs comes via winning the division because they don't need any help.

"It doesn't really matter what our record is," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We've just got to win our games. Obviously, Pittsburgh is a game ahead of us, but we still have another game against them at their place, so it will be tough."

The Ravens knew they were going to have a difficult final four-game stretch with three road games against the Patriots, Steelers and Bengals. Baltimore fell short in several winnable games earlier this year during a four-game slide with five Pro Bowlers and the first-round pick nursing injuries.

Had they won one or two of those games against the Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, New York Giants or New York Jets, it would be an entirely different picture right now. The Ravens have backed themselves into a corner.

"Going forward, the margin of error is we can't error," tight end Dennis Pitta said. "We have to win out. We understand that. We're still in position to accomplish what we want to accomplish."

"It puts us behind the eight ball," wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. added. "I was hoping we could play this game [against New England] and also beat [the Steelers] for icing on the cake. Now we've got fish sticks. It's a terrible thing. Garbage."

The Ravens can't look ahead to the Steelers, however, and that was Harbaugh's message in the New England locker room. The Ravens' playoff path starts this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles have lost four straight games and six of their last seven, but they're a talented team that was the toast of the town at the start of the season when they rattled off three straight wins, including a 34-3 blowout of the Steelers.

"It's a very good Eagles team that we are playing on a short week," Harbaugh said. "We've got to get healthy and we've got to get rested and we've got to get prepared. We've got to go play our best football next Sunday in M&T Bank Stadium.

"We are going to need our crowd man, we are going to need our crowd in full force, because we are making a run for the AFC North title and it starts with that game. We have to win that game."

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