Ravens look to cap disappointing season with strong finish
Dec. 29, 2015
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has emphasized the importance of finishing the team's disappointing season on a high note.
The Ravens now have that opportunity.
Coming off a spirited upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens will attempt to defeat another AFC North rival Sunday in the finale at Cincinnati.
"We want to step off as high as we possibly can," Harbaugh said. "Let's get as good as we can get as a football team. The goal doesn't change that way whether you're in the playoffs or not in the playoffs. We need to play the best football we can play because it's a journey. Winning those games is definitely a measuring stick of how good you are."
The Ravens managed to beat the Steelers 20-17 with a backup quarterback they signed less than two weeks ago in Ryan Mallett. He went 28 for 41 for a career-high 274 yards with a touchdown.
Mallett, released by the Texans on Oct. 27, was the fourth quarterback to start for the Ravens in the past six weeks.
"To get a win in this game, it's awesome," Mallett said. "To get a win, period, right now, how everything's been going, is even better. Now, it's building on that."
The victory also completed a season-sweep of the Steelers, who had won five of their past six games and were trying to clinch a playoff berth. The Ravens were able to avoid turnovers, a problem that has plagued them all season. Baltimore enters the final week of the season with a minus-13 turnover ratio, which is among the worst in the league.
"We didn't give up any points on turnovers," Harbaugh said about the Steelers game. "That's winning football. That's the way we want to play, and to me, that's a blueprint for us going forward. Now we have to try to replicate that blueprint. We have to try to do that again on Sunday against Cincinnati."
The Ravens have another big test against the Bengals, who have won the past four games in the series. Baltimore has not had a victory in Cincinnati since Jan. 1, 2012.
The Bengals edged the Ravens 28-24 in their first meeting on Sept. 27.
"End the season on a good note, and that's with a win," Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken said.
The Ravens have a league-high 19 players on Injured Reserve. The team has also endured three, three-game losing streaks over the course of their 15 games. Nonetheless, the players and coaches vowed to continue fighting each week even as the losses mounted.
Baltimore is now looking to put this disappointing season behind and carry some momentum into the offseason.
"I was very optimistic about this team, as far as record goes," Harbaugh said. "I'm very proud of this team, as far as what I've seen them accomplish this year, record aside. I'm very excited about our core going forward. We have a lot of good football players that have a lot of experience. Young players that have gotten a lot of experience this year. Now, we go into the offseason and build the strongest team that we can for next year."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL