Ravens remain upbeat despite disappointing loss

DAVID GINSBURG - AP Sports Writer
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has a word with tight end Ed Dickson (83) during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday afternoon, Oct. 17, 2010. The Patriots defeated the Ravens 23-20 in overtime. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has a word with tight end Ed Dickson (83) during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday afternoon, Oct. 17, 2010. The Patriots defeated the Ravens 23-20 in overtime.

Once the Baltimore Ravens got over the disappointment of losing in overtime at New England, they realized their position in the AFC playoff picture had not radically changed.

Despite blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 23-20 defeat, the Ravens (4-2) are still on course to reach the postseason for a third straight season.

"We talked to the team about that last night and again today," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "You do get disappointed with the fact that we had an opportunity to go up there and put ourselves in real good position for a lot of long-term things. But we do have the big picture in mind."

The Ravens completed the most difficult stretch of their schedule a half-game out of first place in the AFC North and tied with two teams for the fourth-best record in the conference.

During the opening six weeks, Baltimore played on the road against the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England.

As a reward, six of their final 10 games are home.

Next up: a visit Sunday by winless Buffalo, followed by a bye.

"We're 100 percent focused on Buffalo and 100 percent focused on what we can accomplish this season," Harbaugh said. "Both those things go hand in hand."

The Ravens also were encouraged by the potential return of six-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, who spent the past six weeks on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from offseason hip surgery. Reed is scheduled to begin practice this week and on Sunday could join a backfield that permitted Tom Brady to throw for 292 yards Sunday.

"We're only going to get better with Ed Reed back," Harbaugh said.

That's one reason to look ahead to Buffalo, rather than look back at what happened in New England. The Ravens had everything going their way after taking a 20-10 lead with 14:53 left, but a few agonizing mistakes — most notably a kickoff that went out of bounds and a silly personal foul penalty on Le'Ron McClain — contributed heavily to the defeat.

Extremely conservative play-calling down the stretch didn't help.

Baltimore's offense in the fourth quarter and overtime primarily featured Ray Rice either running the ball or catching short passes over the middle from Joe Flacco.

"We need to grow and learn to attack a little bit better," Harbaugh said. "Obviously we could have gone downfield more."

Flacco went 27 for 35 for 285 yards and two touchdowns. But after flinging the ball around the field for the first three quarters, he produced only three first downs over the final 24 minutes.

"You've got to move on. I think we will grow from it; we will get better each week," Flacco said. "We have a big game against Buffalo before we go to our bye. We get that win, we go to 5-2 and we are feeling pretty good about where we are."

Baltimore was 3-3 after six games last season and made the playoffs, so there's certainly no reason to fret about being 4-2 with the struggling Bills coming to town.

"We are going home and then we are going to the bye week," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "It's going to be rough on Buffalo."

Harbaugh said running back Willis McGahee, who did not see action Sunday, was kept on the sideline because the team believed Rice had a better chance of succeeding against the New England defense.

Harbaugh insisted there was no truth to the theory that McGahee didn't play because there was a chance he could be dealt before Tuesday's trade deadline.

"There is no Willis trade talk, unless there's something I don't know about, which is almost impossible," Harbaugh said. "There is absolutely no way he is being traded. He will be on our team this week and the rest of the season."