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Ravens-Lions: What we learned

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DETROIT -- Justin Tucker was certain he would make the game-winning field goal Monday night. It didn't matter that the Baltimore Ravens were barely past midfield.

With the Ravens facing third-and-10, coach John Harbaugh asked his placekicker if the team was close enough for a field-goal try.

"We got the ball there at the 45-yard line, and I said, 'Hey, are we kicking this or are we going to try to go for it on fourth-and-10?" Harbaugh said. "He said, 'I got it.'

"He kind of ordered me. Then we got 2 more yards, so that was a plus."

After running back Ray Rice advanced the ball to the 43, Tucker blasted a franchise-record 61-yard kick, his sixth field goal of the game, with 38 seconds left to give the Ravens an 18-16 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

"I was confident," Harbaugh said. "I thought we had a real good shot at it."

Quarterback Joe Flacco passed for 222 yards for Baltimore, which won its fourth straight. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones caught six passes for 80 yards as the Ravens (8-6) remained firmly in the playoff hunt while pulling within a game of the first-place Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.

Baltimore's defense intercepted Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford three times in the second half.

"We're a team that keeps believing," said Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith, who had one of the interceptions and a sack. "We never quit. I don't really have any more words for it other than that."

Jones hauled in a 27-yard pass on third-and-15 to move Baltimore into Detroit territory prior to Tucker's winning field goal.

Safety Matt Elam had the last pick to clinch the Ravens' victory.

Stafford completed 18 of 34 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown.

"I think some of the stuff that happened to us was just kind of self-inflicted, whether it be a drop or a sack or a missed pass," the Detroit quarterback said.

Stafford's 14-yard scoring pass to rookie tight end Joseph Fauria with 2:21 remaining gave Detroit the lead.

Lions running back Reggie Bush produced 86 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson had six catches for 98 yards.

Detroit (7-7) dropped behind the Chicago Bears (8-6) and Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) in the NFC North standings. The Lions lost for the fourth time in five games, blowing a fourth-quarter lead in each of the defeats.

"We are the No. 2-ranked offense, and we didn't play like it today," Bush said. "We didn't play like we wanted it today on both sides of the ball. There were plenty of opportunities out there for us to win the game and make plays, and we just didn't come up with it on both sides of the ball."

Even so, the Lions looked as if they might pull out the win when Fauria caught his touchdown over the middle on third-and-9. He has seven touchdowns on 12 receptions this season.

Stafford completed passes of 21 yards to Johnson and 18 yards to tight end Brandon Pettigrew during the 11-play, 80-yard drive. Stafford's two-point pass attempt to Johnson was incomplete, leaving Detroit clinging to a one-point lead.

Tucker's 49-yard field goal with eight minutes left in the third put Baltimore on top 12-7.

That followed defensive end DeAngelo Tyson's interception of a deflected Stafford pass in Ravens territory. David Akers' 40-yard field goal late in the quarter cut Baltimore's advantage to two.

Smith's interception at the Detroit 34-yard line set up Tucker's fifth field goal, a 53-yarder with 8:06 left for a 15-10 Ravens lead.

What the Ravens said

"Every play was a fight, and it was just good that we finished at the end. Obviously, we want to score some more touchdowns than kick six field goals, but we can't be picky at this point. We're just happy we got the win." -- Offensive guard Marshal Yanda.

What the Lions said

"Our emotions aren't important right now. We have two games to play, we're one down in the division. That's the most important thing for us to keep in mind at this point. This was a setback because we did control our destiny until tonight. Now, we've got to get help from somebody." -- Coach Jim Schwartz.

What we learned about the Ravens

1. Justin Tucker is Baltimore's best offensive weapon. It is not often that a kicker holds that distinction, but the Ravens can't run the ball effectively, and quarterback Joe Flacco has nearly as many interceptions as touchdown passes. Yet the Ravens keep humming along, poised to grab a playoff spot and possibly a division crown, because Tucker can't miss. He is 35-for-37 on field-goal attempts, including 16-for-18 from at least 40 yards out. His 61-yard game-winner put him in the national spotlight.

2. Jimmy Smith is a legitimate shutdown cornerback. He held Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson to six catches on 14 targets, though Johnson dropped a couple in the first half. Johnson's longest reception was 37 yards. By preventing Megatron from making big plays, Smith allowed the Ravens to use a grind-it-out approach.

What we learned about the Lions

1. Despite talent and relatively good health, the Lions are keeping up the franchise tradition of underachieving and finding ways to lose. Getting beat on a 61-yard field goal was just the latest bad beat in a season filled with regrets. Detroit allowed a 27-yard pass on third-and-long prior to Justin Tucker's huge kick. The Lions blew fourth-quarter leads in each of their past four losses, and they could be eliminated from playoff contention next week after seemingly being in control of the division after their blowout victory over the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving.

2. Quarterback Matthew Stafford piles up big stats but doesn't produce enough in the clutch. He was intercepted three times in the second half, giving him 17 picks for the season. His propensity for turnovers is playing a major role on Detroit's late-season collapse. It is easy for critics to lump him with the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo, a quarterback who falls apart far too often when a playoff berth is on the line.
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