- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

OWINGS MILLS, Md. | For the Baltimore Ravens to return to the playoffs, they will have to break their pattern of mediocrity.

Win, lose, win, lose, win, lose, win.

That’s their ledger over the past seven weeks, which explains why the Ravens are 7-6 and need some help to qualify for the postseason.

Coming off its most complete performance of the year, a 48-3 rout of Detroit, Baltimore will seek to put together its first winning streak since September by beating the Chicago Bears on Sunday. If that doesn’t happen, they won’t need to watch the scoreboard to see how the other AFC wild-card hopefuls fare.

“We’re most interested in how we play. That’s the bottom line. That’s what we have to concern ourselves with,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “If we don’t take of business against the Chicago Bears, first and foremost… it’s not going to matter what happens in those other games.”

Baltimore set team records against the Lions in rushing touchdowns (five) and total yardage (548). Ray Rice had 151 yards rushing and more than 200 yards in offense by halftime, and even the reserves outscored the Lions in the fourth quarter.

“It was great to go out there and score 48 points and shut that team down to three points and have all these yards, but we understand that it means nothing if we can’t come back and duplicate it the following week,” wide receiver Derrick Mason said. “We understand and realize that from this point on we’re in a three-game playoff and we have to win those three games.”

The day was particularly fruitful because Denver and Jacksonville, the current wild-card leaders, both lost.

“It’s good to get a win and get some help from other teams,” defensive tackle Kelly Gregg said. “More importantly, we have to win two in a row. That’s what we’re focused on now.”

Harbaugh met with the veterans on the team last week to get their take on what the Ravens needed to do to mount some momentum over the final four weeks of the regular season.

“The point was that they were going have to lead the way in December, and it was going to start in practice,” Harbaugh said. “We told the young guys, ‘Just follow the vets. Watch what the vets do. They’ve been here before.’ ”

The message from Ray Lewis was to savor the moment because there’s nothing like playing meaningful football games in the final month of the year.

“This is December football. This is something that me and Coach talked about,” Lewis said. “I told him, ‘This is the greatest time that you’ll ever have in football - December.’ The playoffs are getting close. Just come out and have a good time playing the game.”

The remainder of the schedule is favorable for the Ravens. After hosting the Bears (5-8), they face slumping Pittsburgh (6-7) and Oakland (4-9) on the road.

“We know what we have to do,” running back Willis McGahee said. “We know we have to win the rest of our games regardless of what happens.”

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