The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens needed a win badly over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday if they wanted to keep their playoff hopes alive and win they did. After surviving a Hail-Mary pass to send the game into overtime, the Ravens are now back in the divisional hunt.
It may not have been a pretty win for the Ravens, but the only thing that mattered to Joe Flacco and the Ravens was the word win.
Flacco threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the game while running back Ray Rice only gained a measly 30 yards on the ground. The offense only gained 189 total yards which was good enough for the second-lowest yardage total for a winning team this season. The Ravens went 5-for-19 on third down and had nine penalties for 134 yards. The stats may not have been good all around for the Ravens, but they still were able to top the divisional leading Bengals.
The win for the Ravens makes things interesting in the AFC North standings, and the race to the top will be one to watch as the final games of the NFL season draw close. The Bengals are still leading the division at 6-4, the Cleveland Browns and Ravens are creeping their way up with 4-5 records, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are still trying to make a push with a 3-6 record.
The bottom line is the fate of the Ravens’ 2013 season lies in the hands of the entire offense. Flacco has struggled all year, Rice may be the biggest bust running back in the NFL with only 289 rushing yards and three touchdowns this year, and standout receiver Torrey Smith has only found the end zone twice this season. With all offensive stars struggling, the Ravens are lucky to be able to say they are still in the hunt.
The schedule for the last seven games of the season for the Ravens may make it tough to get the late season push they are wanting. They finish the season with the last three games against teams that are currently leading their respective divisions and may need those late season wins to secure their spots.
The Ravens have two choices for the rest of the season that will define their 2013 season: get the offense going strong and prove they are once again the team to beat or lay flat and fall into the category with teams that miss the playoffs in the season after winning the Super Bowl.