Ravens get needed playoff help with win, Colts’ loss to Steelers originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
BALTIMORE — By the time the first quarter was over, the most important scoreboard at M&T Bank Stadium for the Ravens was the out-of-town one.
Tight end Mark Andrews admitted he couldn’t help but look throughout the afternoon. Cornerback Anthony Averett did his best to stay focused on the field and the task at hand, but said he picked up a few scores throughout the afternoon.
But even with all the nerves throughout the afternoon about games around the league, it took until after the Ravens’ 27-13 win over the Giants for it to become official.
By virtue of the Ravens’ victory, and Colts and Browns losses, the Ravens are a Week 17 win over the Bengals away from getting into the playoffs. There are no more scenarios, no more what-ifs or loss scenarios for them to ponder.
“You try not to look too far elsewhere, but we control our own fate and that’s a great feeling knowing that,” Andrews said. “We’ve got to go play a really good Bengals team next week and try to get better and reach the playoffs. That’s all we can focus on is this next game.”
When the Ravens left the field after the game, they had no idea what awaited them. The Browns, after falling down by 17 points to the Jets, were mounting a comeback. As were the Steelers, who once trailed the Colts by 17 as well.
With a loss by either the Browns or the Colts, and a win over the Giants, the Ravens were going to slide into a playoff spot by day's end. Instead, both losses happened.
But there wasn’t a massive celebration or reaction once Philip Rivers’ pass on the Colts’ final drive fell incomplete, or when Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was stopped on fourth and one in Jets territory. Instead, the Ravens found out as they checked their phones after the game.
“We kind of stayed with our tradition,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We had a team prayer. Then, we had circled up and did a few game balls and did our break...We didn’t really talk too much about that. I ended up seeing the Browns’ last play walking in here in the coaches’ locker room, because the coaches had it on a phone. So, it’s not like we had it on TVs or anything.”
It was tough, however, for the Ravens to keep focused on what they could control after a dominating 13-play, 82-yard opening drive to start the game with a touchdown. They forced a three-and-out defensively, then scored another touchdown with seven seconds left in the first quarter.
The Ravens jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and then coasted to a 27-13 win, a win that could’ve been larger were it not for a fumbled handoff inside the Giants’ three-yard line. From the first drive of the game, a Ravens loss was hardly ever in danger.
By that point, though, no Lamar Jackson touchdown passes or J.K. Dobbins runs were the story any longer. Instead, it was all about how the Ravens could force their way into playoff positioning before Week 17 began.
“I pretty much found out in the locker room after the game,” Jackson said. “My reaction was, ‘We just have to keep winning.’ Like I said before, we don’t really try to lean on hoping a team loses, because it really doesn’t matter. We still have to win no matter what, and that’s what I’m focused on. I’m just happy they lost.”
Now, the Ravens are a win away from their fifth-straight win and their third-straight playoff appearance. What stands in their way, however, is a rejuvenated Bengals team that’s beaten the Steelers and Texans in the last two weeks. And no Ravens fan has forgotten the 2017 season finale, where Andy Dalton and the Bengals ruined the Ravens’ AFC North title hopes on a heartbreaking 4th and 14 play in Week 17.
Sunday's game was merely a blip on the radar, as the fact that the Ravens sacked Giants quarterback Daniel Jones six times is now irrelevant. The fact that the Ravens out-gained the Giants 432-269 doesn’t matter anymore. It hardly mattered while the game was going on.
The Ravens are now 60 minutes away from a playoff berth. And for the first time in weeks, there will only be one scoreboard that matters.
“We’ve got to go to Cincinnati and finish the business off,” outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. “We’ve got to make it happen.”