OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — This was the absence Baltimore could least afford. The Ravens are hopeful it won't linger.
Lamar Jackson missed most of Sunday's loss at Cleveland after spraining his ankle, but a day later, coach John Harbaugh said the star quarterback did not have a high ankle sprain. Harbaugh said he's planning for Jackson to play this week, but it's too early to tell for sure.
“We'll see where it goes this week,” Harbaugh said. “If he can go, he'll go. If not, Tyler (Huntley) will be the quarterback.”
Huntley threw for 270 yards and a touchdown and showed some impressive scrambling ability, but it wasn't enough as the Ravens fell 24-22 to the Browns. It was Baltimore's second consecutive loss, but the Ravens (8-5) remained in sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
That's somewhat remarkable given the unrelenting injury problems the team has faced this season. Baltimore has a daunting task trying to hold onto a playoff spot if Jackson misses more time. The Ravens lead the division by one game over Cincinnati (7-6) and Cleveland (7-6), and even last-place Pittsburgh (6-6-1) isn't far behind.
Baltimore lost close games to the Steelers and Browns the past two weekends, which is why the division standings are so compressed. The Ravens finish the regular season with games against the Packers, Bengals, Rams and Steelers, all of whom are at .500 or better.
“Everybody’s doing their best, fighting their hardest,” Harbaugh said Monday, reading from prepared remarks. “I’m really extremely proud of every person on the team, coaches and players — and very, very confident. We have four games left. Each one of those four games represents an opportunity for us to get where we want to go.”
Nobody can deny the Ravens have fought through a lot this season. At halftime Sunday, it seemed like they'd finally run out of steam. Their quarterback was hurt, they trailed 24-6, and it was fair to wonder how many wins might be left on that tough schedule.
Then Baltimore shut out Cleveland the rest of the way and actually had a chance to win before its last drive fizzled.
“Just makes me proud to be around these guys every day. It's a joy to coach them," Harbaugh said. “The bottom line is finding a way to win. That's what we're here for, and that's what we fight for — but these guys do, they fight for that.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Slow starts on offense have been a problem. They've scored only 30 points in the first quarter this season, and they've gone seven straight games without a first-quarter touchdown.
Rookie Rashod Bateman rebounded from a quiet game against Pittsburgh, catching seven passes for 103 yards against the Browns.
“I’m just continuing to get more comfortable as we play,” Bateman said. "I’m just doing my job, continuing to make plays for the team. Hopefully, I can keep it up.”
The Ravens have been the top team in the NFL in time of possession, but they had the ball for just 26:10 on Sunday. Baltimore went 1 for 12 on third downs, and Cleveland was 6 of 13.
While Jackson's ankle is the biggest issue, DT Calais Campbell (thigh) and receiver Sammy Watkins (knee) are also working through injury problems.
FB Patrick Ricard (knee) missed Sunday's game in another blow to the Baltimore offense.
“He just didn't feel like he could go, the way it felt,” Harbaugh said. “It's not a serious thing. We got the MRI, we got good news on it this morning. So we'll see how it progresses during the week. Kind of expecting to have him next week. We'll see how it goes.”
125 — number of yards on 10 Baltimore penalties Sunday. The secondary, which has also been depleted by injuries, had a rough first half, when the Ravens were hurt by some pass interference calls.
That secondary figures to be tested again Sunday when Baltimore hosts Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay. The Packers scored a season-high 45 points in a win over Chicago on Sunday night.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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