OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ray Rice’s incredible fourth-down journey through the San Diego defense helped the Baltimore Ravens move closer to a second straight division title.
It’s also possible that Rice’s catch-and-run gem -- a 29-yard gain on a fourth-and-29 situation in Sunday’s 16-13 overtime victory -- could ultimately be the defining moment for a team in the hunt to secure the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
"We’ll see what it means, if we can capitalize on it and stack some success on top of that," coach John Harbaugh said Monday.
Baltimore punted on all six first-half possessions and trailed 13-10 when Rice weaved his way up the field to secure a first down at the San Diego 34 with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter. The 5-foot-8 running back eluded several tackles, received a crushing block from wide receiver Anquan Boldin and finally lunged forward to cover the necessary yardage.
"It’s going to go down in history. It was just a remarkable play ... the greatest play I’ve ever seen or been a part of," Harbaugh said. "It was 11 guys who made the play happen. One guy had a real big role in it. It was a sensational play by Ray Rice."
Had the Ravens lost, they would have dropped into a tie with New England and Denver for second-best record in the AFC. Instead, Baltimore (9-2) remained a game behind Houston for the best record in the conference and retained its grip on the No. 2 seed.
The Ravens have played seven games decided by seven points or fewer. They have won six of them.
"We know how to win football games," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We’ve done a great job of that over the years. It wasn’t perfect, but not every game is going to be perfect. When you can grind one out in the end like that it shows that you’re a tough football team with a lot of resilience that knows how to win."
Said Rice: "We firmly believed we were going to get the first down."
If the Ravens (9-2) beat fading Pittsburgh (6-5) this Sunday and Cincinnati loses to San Diego, Baltimore will clinch the AFC North title.
"The thing our guys have done is, as a team, they’ve positioned themselves really well to take advantage of an opportunity," Harbaugh said. "That’s what you try to do. Every game makes the next game that much more important."