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Ravens aren't pretty, but they find ways to win

With victory, Baltimore has two-game lead in AFC North

Mike Preston

9:32 PM PST, November 18, 2012

PITTSBURGH —

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If you're waiting for the Ravens to become a super team in their quest to win another Super Bowl, it's probably not going to happen.

But if you're looking for a team good enough to be a strong contender, then it's the Ravens. There are no more heavyweights left for the Ravens to play except for the Denver Broncos.

So far, the Ravens have been blown out by the Houston Texans, but they've beaten the New England Patriots and Sunday night knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers, 13-10. The win puts the Ravens up two games in the AFC North.

They did it without a lot of help from quarterback Joe Flacco and star wide receiver Torrey Smith. The pessimist will say they beat the Steelers without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but that's not the Ravens' fault. Every team deals with injuries, and the Ravens were missing Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis and their best cornerback, Lardarius Webb.

And there's a good chance Roethlisberger won't play again in two weeks and the Ravens will beat them again at M & T Bank Stadium.

You'd like to see the Ravens improve and get better down the stretch, but at this point you have to give them credit. They find ways to win.

Regardless if it's a punt or kickoff return for a touchdown, or a long Flacco pass or a short Ray Rice run, they find ways to win.

That's how they roll.

If you look in the AFC, there is only one dominant team — the Texans — and they had to go into overtime to beat Jacksonville Sunday.

The Ravens ain't pretty, but they win, and that's how it is going to be for the rest of the season.

Nice move by Ravens

One of the best moves of the season came Wednesday when the Ravens re-signed quarterback Dennis Dixon. It wasn't like the Ravens were going to drain Dixon, a former Steelers quarterback, of any information about his previous team. But if current Steelers quarterbacks Byron Leftwich or Charlie Batch get hurt, the Steelers would have to sign another quarterback who isn't familiar with their personnel.

Actually, Dixon is better than both Batch and Leftwich.

Risky move by Ravens

The Ravens took a huge gamble Sunday night putting both left guards, Bobbie Williams and Ramon Harewood, on the inactive list and starting Jah Reid. That left rookie Gino Gradkowski as the top replacement at left guard.

Gradkowski is s smart player but needs a year in the weight room. The Ravens have him listed at 300 pounds, but that's a small 300 pounds.

Slow start by Flacco

Flacco played a poor first half. He was off target on a lot of passes and constantly threw too high. His worst pass of the half came with 6:05 left in the first quarter. If Flacco had led Smith across the field, it would have been a long touchdown because Smith had beaten cornerback Ike Taylor. Instead, Flacco threw straight and on a line which allowed Taylor to catch up and knock down the ball.

Kruger represents

The Ravens moved Terrell Suggs around a lot during the game, but maybe they should have just kept him on the right side because Paul Kruger, who was playing on the left side, was killing rookie tackle Michael Adams.

Suggs can play the run, but the acceleration during pass rushing situations isn't there and probably won't be until late in the season or next year.

No no-huddle?

It's interesting to see where the no-huddle offense will take the Ravens this season. They didn't run it in the first half until after Rice caught a 31 yard pass down to the Pittsburgh 40 late in the first quarter.

The Ravens went to the no-huddle to open the third quarter and it doesn't seem it will be the standard offense anymore offense on the road unless it is absolutely necessary.

Huh?

Strangest call of the first half by the Ravens occurred on a third and 14 at the Ravens 38 with about seven minutes left in the second period. The Ravens ran a quick screen to receiver Jacoby Jones that resulted in minus three yards.

For a team which prides itself in saying it loves to attack, this play had no imagination or any chance of succeeding.

Special teams star

Reserve safety James Ihedigbo may have replaced Brendon Ayanbadejo as the Ravens best special teams performer. This guy is all over the field and always one of the first ones down the field to cover a kick or punt.

Plus, he is downright nasty. He crushed Leftwich for a sack in the fourth quarter that forced the Steelers to punt.

Tough call

The NFL is trying to cut down on the number of concussions and injuries, but it might have to re-think some of these penalties about helmet-to-helmet contact.

Some of the hits are unavoidable. When Ravens safety Ed Reed was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on Pittsburgh receiver Emmanuel Sanders after a 20-yard reception in the third quarter, there was no way Reed could have turned his head because there wasn't enough time.

I think referees have to start considering the circumstances around the play instead of just making the call because the commissioner sent down a memo telling them to call anything that was in question.

Enough with the old-timers

Ever notice that whenever the Ravens play Pittsburgh the Steelers bring back their old players of yester-year to honor them?

I understand they are trying to get the crowd worked up, but it's getting old. Bring them back when the Cleveland Browns come to town.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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