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 OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -The ice water bath that Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh received after Sunday's rout of the Philadelphia Eagles wasn't an impromptu celebration.
It was more of a ritual, one the players expect to continue for weeks to come.
``We've been doing it all year,'' safety Ed Reed said. ``We plan to do this late January or February. So that's just practice.''
The surprising Ravens (7-4) are in the thick of the playoff race, and even their cautious first-year coach momentarily acknowledged as much in the wake of Baltimore's fifth win in six tries, a 36-7 dismissal of the fading Eagles.
``We know we have a shot for the playoffs. We know we're in the hunt,'' Harbaugh said. ``Our guys understand that.''
T Bank Stadium, will be held at 8:15 p.m. as the Sunday night game of the week.
Only three teams in the AFC have a better record than the Ravens, who face the Cincinnati Bengals on the road Sunday before finishing the regular season with three of four at home. Harbaugh probably knows this, but on Monday he kiddingly said he wasn't aware the Redskins are on the schedule.
``Do we play the Redskins? I'm not sure who we play after the Bengals,'' he said.
As much as he'd like to enjoy this, Harbaugh refuses to get swept away by thoughts of those pivotal December games or leading the Ravens into the postseason.
``Any excitement that you feel is tempered by the fact that you have the Bengals in front of you,'' he said. ``That excitement goes away pretty quick when you don't play up to your capability on a Sunday afternoon.
``We want to be a better football team next Sunday than we were last Sunday. That's our responsibility as a football team,'' he said. ``If we can do that, then you look back at your body of work and say, OK, this is how we got there.''
It's hard to imagine the Ravens improving upon their performance against Philadelphia. Baltimore's defense chased quarterback Donovan McNabb from the game, held the Eagles to 86 yards rushing and cemented the victory with a 24-point fourth quarter.
Seven days earlier, the Ravens yielded 207 yards on the ground to the New York Giants in a 30-10 defeat.
game,'' Harbaugh said, moments before rattling off the names of at least a half-dozen players who contributed heavily to the victory.
As the clock wound down Sunday, special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo and middle linebacker Ray Lewis each grabbed a bucket and tiptoed behind Harbaugh, whose attention was on the field. At just the right moment, both players emptied the water on their smiling head coach.
``It seems like we've gotten a coach every single week so it was my turn. I kind of figured it was coming, but I didn't think it would come with 3 minutes left in the game,'' Harbaugh said. ``I was talking to the officials. The officials aren't supposed to be setting up the Gatorade shower, right? So it was shocking that it happened at that point.''
No less stunning than what Harbaugh has done with a team that went 5-11 last year. His influence on the players was evident Sunday, when many of the Ravens' more outspoken players spoke carefully in the locker room about mounting a playoff run.
``At the end of the season, if everything goes to plan, we'll look and see where we are. But first things first: We've got to handle our business,'' linebacker Terrell Suggs said. ``We control our fate, pretty much at this point. So let's just go at it.''
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