- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

OWINGS MILLS, Md. | The Baltimore Ravens have a simple plan for the rest of the season: Fix the mistakes they made in a frustrating loss to Pittsburgh, beat Oakland and then go deep into the playoffs.

Despite being penalized 11 times for 113 yards, committing three turnovers and allowing four sacks in a 23-20 defeat against the Steelers on Sunday, the Ravens (8-7) need only to win at Oakland on Sunday to reach the postseason for a second straight season.

After that, coach John Harbaugh said Monday, “anything’s possible.”

“I’m excited about our chances. We take care of business at Oakland, get ourselves in the playoffs, we can win the world championship. That’s our goal,” he said. “We’re capable of doing it. But it’s up to us to get it done.”

The first priority is to cut down on penalties. The Ravens, who rank first in the NFL with 1,057 penalty yards, had two touchdowns called back against Pittsburgh because of infractions. In addition, an offside call on Terrell Suggs extended a Pittsburgh scoring drive, and tackles Haloti Ngata and Oniel Cousins were flagged for personal fouls after the whistle.

“I happen to think that we have the makings of a very good football team. We do a lot of things really well. That’s the thing you get excited about because that’s where we’re going to go,” Harbaugh said.

“The other things? The things that stick in our gut and our craw? We acknowledge [them],” he said. “Let’s get those things worked out. Let’s make better decisions in critical situations. Let’s get those penalties down where they belong, which is at three or four a game at the most.”

Had the Ravens defeated Pittsburgh, they already would be in the playoffs. But at least Baltimore has a second chance to get it right.

“Forget about this one. It’s over and done with,” wide receiver Derrick Mason said after Sunday’s loss. “We just have to prepare for the next one. That’s all that matters. We win, we’re in. That’s our philosophy. I’ve forgotten about this one; it’s done and over with.”

Mason would like nothing better than to clear his memory of Sunday’s game. Although he caught seven passes for 77 yards, he dropped a sure touchdown throw that would have put Baltimore in front in the fourth quarter.

Harbaugh can tolerate that kind of mistake. The penalties, however, were unacceptable.

“It was irritating. All of us felt that,” he said. “We played too well in so many ways for the outcome to be what it was. Why was the outcome what it was? Well, it was our doing. It was penalties and missed opportunities. But those are things we can fix.”

The Ravens have one week to do it. In his two seasons as Baltimore’s coach, Harbaugh has never lost to a team with a sub-.500 record. He has no intention of ruining that perfect mark against the Raiders (5-10), whose victims include Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Denver.

“I would be disappointed. I would be surprised if our team wasn’t ready to play,” Harbaugh said. “It’s just going to be a matter of how well we address the things we’ve got to get better at going into next week. Our guys know they’re going to play a team that’s very dangerous, a football team that has proven they can beat anybody in this league, and we’re going to their place.

“This is their last game of the season, and they’re going to put their best effort out there. But we’ve got more at stake. We’ve got an opportunity to make the playoffs. We’ve got an opportunity to get in the tournament. To me, that’s motivation enough. I’m sure our guys will be ready.”

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