MIKE O'HARA

OPPONENT BREAKDOWN: Ravens no stranger to late-season surges

Posted Dec 14, 2013

Baltimore has enjoyed success under head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco

John HarbaughJohn Harbaugh (AP Photos)

Ravens Coach John Harbaugh should feel like he's in familiar territory when he leads his team into Ford Field to play the Lions on Monday night.

The Ravens' place in the standings – second in the AFC North and in position to make a late-season playoff run – is a spot Harbaugh has been accustomed to in his six seasons as head coach. So are the surroundings of southeast Michigan from having grown up in Ann Arbor as the son of career college coach Jack Harbaugh.

Business comes first on the Ravens' trip to Detroit. They're in contention for a sixth straight playoff berth under Harbaugh.

The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens are playing to form. They've struggled this year, but a three-game win streak has made their record 7-6 and put them in the second wild-card spot in the AFC playoff race.

The Ravens have been one of the NFL's best closing teams since Harbaugh became head coach in 2008 and Joe Flacco joined him as a rookie quarterback. In addition to making the playoffs all five years, the Ravens have won at least a first-round game.

In those five years, they've won six of the last seven games twice and four and five of the last six once. Last year they had the ultimate finishing kick – a four-game win streak in the playoffs, with a victory over the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.

Harbaugh isn't claiming that the Ravens will continue to follow their and make it six straight playoff appearances.

"To me, that story has yet to be written," Harbaugh said in a conference-call interview earlier this week. "We have clawed our way back to where we are now, and if we are going to get in we will have to claw our way in. And that's where we are at."

The Ravens have been tough physically and mentally, and they haven't gotten that way by accident. In past seasons, leadership from players such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed carried them through tough situations.

"We've always been a tested team, and we know how to handle things, even though they might not be the most ideal things," Flacco said. "We have been in tough situations before, so I think we can draw on that.

"Everything we do throughout the year prepares us for December football – whether it's the schedule that we do and the lifting that we do and everything. It's all thought out, and it's done for a reason.

"One of those big reasons is, so come December, we are a strong football team and we can come out and feel like we have a leg up on other teams."

State of the Harbaughs:

Their family tree has deep roots in Michigan. John and brother Jim followed a path set by their father Jack, who was an assistant at Michigan and head coach at Western Michigan in a college career that spanned more than five decades.

John played at Ann Arbor Pioneer High and coached at WMU.

Jim, head coach of the 49ers, also spent time at Pioneer High and was an All-American quarterback at Michigan.

He played 15 NFL seasons and was in training camp with the Lions in 2001, his last pro season.

John joked about the number of ticket requests he and wife Ingrid had for Monday night's game.

"Yeah, we have lots of friends there," John said in a conference-call interview this week. "My wife's family is all around there from different parts of suburban Detroit in places like Ann Arbor."

Are they fans of the Lions or Ravens?

"If I got them the tickets, they better be wearing purple, I can tell you that," Harbaugh said. "If I paid for the tickets, they better not be wearing blue."

How the Ravens have made stretch runs with the Harbaugh-Flacco connection:

2008 (11-5): Won five of their last six games to qualify as a wild card.
Playoffs: won at Miami and Tennessee, then lost at Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship.

2009 (9-7): Won three of the last four and four of the last six to qualify as a wild card.
Playoffs:
won at New England and lost at Indianapolis in the divisional round.

2010 (12-4): Won six of the last seven to qualify as a wild card.
Playoffs:
won at Kansas City in the wild-card round, then lost at Pittsburgh in the divisional round.'

2011: (12-4): Won six of the last seven to win the AFC North.
Playoffs
: beat Houston at home in the divisional round, lost at New England in the AFC Championship on a missed field goal in the final seconds that would have put the game in overtime.

2012 (10-6): Reversed their trend, losing four of the last five but won the AFC North.
Playoffs:
Beat Indianapolis at home, then won at Denver and New England to win the AFC Championship. Beat the 49ers in Super XLVII.

Ravens' playoff record under Harbaugh/Flacco: 9-4, with a 7-4 record in road games, 1-0 at home and 1-0 on a neutral site in Super Bowl XLVII.

Ravens leaders:

Offense

Passing: Joe Flacco 290-488 (59.4 percent), 3,238 yards, 18 TD, 17 Int., 41 sacks, 77.0 rating.
Rushing: Ray Rice 185-549, 3.0 avg., 4 TD; Bernard Pierce 130-356, 2.7 avg., 2 TD; Flacco 22-117, 5.3 avg., 0 TD.
Receptions: Torrey Smith 55-963, 17.5 avg., 4 TD; Rice 48-255, 5.3 avg., 0 TD; Marlon Brown 36-412, 11.4 avg., 6 TD; Dallas Clark 31-343, 11.1 avg., 3 TD; Jacoby Jones, 29-353, 12.2 avg., 2 TD.

Defense

Tackles: Daryl Smith 102; James Ihedigbo 84; Terrell Suggs 74; Lardarius Webb 63; Corey Grraham, 62; Matt Elam 50; Jimmy Smith 46; Josh Bynes, Arthur Jones 41.
Sacks (team total 37): Elvis Dumervil 9.5; Suggs 9; Jones 4.
Interceptions (team total 9): Graham 3; Smith and Ihedigbo 2.

Special teams

Returns: Punts -- Tandon Doss 23-28.7 avg., 1 TD; Jacoby Jones 7-28.7 avg.; Kickoffs – Jones 21-28.7 avg., 1 TD; Deonte Thompson 7-28,7.
Punting: Sam Koch 76-45.3 gross avg., 38.1 net, 1 blocked.
Kicking: Justin Tucker 29-31 FG, 25-25 PAT.