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Monday, December 27, 2010

Ravens beat Browns, heading to playoffs

Ray Rice had another good game, rushing for 92 yards in the Ravens 20-10 win over the Browns.

On various Ravens message boards and sports talk shows, fans have been noticeably critical of the Ravens coaching staff this year, Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh in particular.

But the fact that cannot be argued is that Harbaugh and Cameron have taken the Ravens to the playoffs three years in a row. With a 20-10 win over the Browns in Cleveland, the Ravens clinched a playoff spot. It's looking like the #5 seed right now, but with a Steelers loss and a Ravens win over the Bengals this Sunday, the Ravens would find themselves with the #2 seed and a first round bye. And that would be about the time I kick myself for not buying playoff tickets.

So while there is plenty to be critical about when it comes to Harbaugh and Cameron, they have taken the Ravens to the post-season three times in a row -- something Brian Billick never did in his 9 years as Ravens head coach.

Yesterday, the Ravens relied on their bread and butter: their running game and creating turnovers.

Ray Rice rushed for 92 yards on 25 carries and the Ravens took away the ball from the Browns 4 times. And as the weather gets cold and the playoffs draw closer, it's about time that Cameron returned to the smashmouth football that has been the Ravens M.O the last decade.

Running the ball comes at the expense of the passing game, which us why Flacco threw for 102 yards yesterday. He chucked 2 more touchdowns and had a deep pass picked off. And while Flacco is capable of doing much more in this offense, these are the kinds of games we want to see him play.

Derrick Mason was the leading receiver, with 50 yards and a touchdown, while TJ Houshmandzadeh hauled in 4 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Anquan Boldin caught just 2 balls for 15 yards. You have to wonder when the Ravens are going to work in Boldin more, but if he's content playing the decoy role for Mason and Houshmandzadeh to flourish, it's OK with me.

The defense rose to the occasion. After allowing an early touchdown, the Ravens defense hunkered down and put the brakes on the Browns offense. They scored only three more points and turned the ball over a total of four times on the day. Peyton Hillis, who had shredded the Ravens defense earlier this season, was held to 35 yards on 12 carries.

So even though there is one more game left on the schedule (Bengals), the playoff scenario is pretty much locked up. If the Ravens win and the Steelers lose to the Browns, the Ravens will get the #2 seed and a first round bye. But otherwise, they are the #5 seed and most likely headed to Indianapolis to take on the Colts.

Ugh.

And it doesn't get any easier, with the road to Dallas likely going through Pittsburgh and New England.

But at least the Ravens have made the playoffs again, and we can have this discussion.

And that alone feels good.

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