Ravens keep mo­men­tum, hold off Ea­gles

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY DAVID GINSBURG

BALTIMORE | The Baltimore Ravens main­tain con­trol of their play­off chances thanks to a tight vic­tory over a Philadel­phia Ea­gles team that lost be­cause it played to win.

Baltimore (8-6) en­tered the fi­nal three weeks of the sea­son know­ing it would cap­ture the AFC North by win­ning its fi­nal three games.

The Ravens crossed the first item off the list, beat­ing the Ea­gles 27-26 Sun­day. So now, if the Ravens de­feat Pitts­burgh on Christ­mas Day and knock off Cincin­nati in the fi­nale, they will be back in the post­sea­son af­ter a one-year hia­tus.

“We want to win a Su­per Bowl, so we have to go through Pitts­burgh next week to get there,” Ravens run­ning back Ken­neth Dixon said.

Baltimore (8-6) might have to play bet­ter than it did against the Ea­gles (5-9). The Ravens were cruis­ing with a 27-17 lead be­fore al­low­ing Philadel­phia to climb back into it.

A 4-yard touch­down run by Car­son Wentz with 4 sec­onds left got the Ea­gles to 27-26. In­stead of tak­ing the easy kick to force over­time, first-year coach Doug Ped­er­son sent his of­fense onto the field to at­tempt a 2-point con­ver­sion.

The pass to Jor­dan Matthews was tipped by line­backer C.J. Mosley and fell in­com­plete.

“It would hurt a lot to lose this game,” Ravens safety Lar­dar­ius Webb said. “As long as you can con­trol your own destiny, that’s all you can ask for. We have a shot.”

And the Ea­gles? De­spite ab­sorb­ing their sixth loss by seven points or fewer, they ap­pre­ci­ated Ped­er­son’s de­ci­sion to go for 2.

“I loved it,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “We had all the con­fi­dence in the world we were go­ing to get it done on that play.”

The Ea­gles shred­ded the NFL’s top rush­ing de­fense with sur­pris­ing ease, pil­ing up 169 yards and av­er­ag­ing 4.4 yards per carry.

Most of that came from Ryan

Mathews, who ex­ploited the mid­dle of the de­fense for 128 yards and sev­eral big gains.

“It’s get­ting on a roll,” Mathews said. “Guys were ex­cited to run the ball.”

Ped­er­son praised the of­fen­sive line, and Mathews noted that re­ceivers were chip­ping in with down­field blocks.

“It just came down to sheer pa­tience and de­ter­mi­na­tion and the of­fen­sive line,” Ped­er­son said.

The Ravens had a 10-point lead and first down at the Philadel­phia 11 with just over six min­utes re­main­ing when Joe Flacco let Philadel­phia right back into the game.

Baltimore’s quar­ter­back threw an in­ter­cep­tion while fol­low­ing orders on what coach John Har­baugh later la­beled, “the all-time worst call ever.”

But re­ceiver Mike Wal­lace said, “Throw it. Throw it. It was a great call. Just don’t throw an in­ter­cep­tion.” Pre­cisely.

“I turned the ball over there at the end and that’s the only rea­son it was re­ally a game,” Flacco said.

Flacco’s pass was in­ter­cepted by line­backer Jor­dan Hicks, whose 34-yard re­turn put the Ravens on their heels. If only those kind of plays oc­curred reg­u­larly, the Ea­gles might have been a fac­tor in the NFC East this sea­son.

“We need more of those types of plays,” Hicks said. “On de­fense, we be­lieve we are go­ing to set the tone for this team. And in or­der for that to hap­pen, we’ve got to come up with the en­ergy, make plays and be the mo­men­tum set­ters.”

When Baltimore’s Justin Tucker made his 10th field goal of at least 50 yards, he tied Blair Walsh’s NFL record set in 2012.

With the wind swirling and the pres­sure on in a huge game, Tucker hit a 53-yarder in the first quar­ter to stake the Ravens to a 10-3 lead.

“Tuck is so ac­cu­rate, and he has such a strong leg he can make those kicks,” Har­baugh said. “To­day was tough; there was a lot of wind out there.”

Tucker has made 31 of 32 kicks this sea­son. His only miss of the year was blocked. He’s hit on 12 con­sec­u­tive 50-yarders, in­clud­ing 10 straight in 2016.

“The next kick is the most im­por­tant kick,” he said. “Sure, it’s an­other ac­co­lade piece to put on the man­tel, but at the ex­act same time there is more im­por­tant stuff to take care of, and that starts with a win in Pitts­burgh on Christ­mas Day.”

Terrance West rat­tled off a 41-yard run for Baltimore in the third quar­ter, the long­est of his ca­reer. He fin­ished with 77 yards and av­er­aged 5.9 yards per carry.

He now has 729 yards for the sea­son, top­ping his pre­vi­ous high of 673 in 2014 with Cleveland.

“I thought our of­fense grinded it out and played a pretty good game,” Flacco said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Baltimore Ravens run­ning back Ken­neth Dixon cel­e­brates his 16-yard touch­down run in the fourth quar­ter of a 27-26 vic­tory over the Philadel­phia Ea­gles on Sun­day.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The ball bounces off Philadel­phia Ea­gles re­ceiver Jor­dan Matthews un­der pres­sure from Baltimore Ravens de­fen­sive back Jer­raud Pow­ers dur­ing a failed two point con­ver­sion try that would have given the Ea­gles a late fourth quar­ter lead on Sun­day.

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