OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens are still fighting to end a three-year playoff drought even though they are riding their longest winning streak of the season.
The Ravens hold a one-game lead for the sixth and final post-season spot in the AFC. Baltimore (7-5) also is within a half-game of the first-place Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North after the Ravens' 26-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
It was their third in a row behind rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. He has emerged as a playmaker since taking over for Joe Flacco, who is battling a hip injury.
Baltimore faces its toughest test of the season this week when the Ravens take on the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs.
Flacco still has to be cleared by doctors to potentially play in that game. In the meantime, Jackson has shown that he can effectively lead the Ravens offence.
"He's getting better," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said or Jackson during the coach's Monday news conference. "Football is like that, especially with that position. You do it practice and that's one thing, but there's nothing like the game. The game is where you learn the lessons kind of the hard way.
"He made a few mistakes that are well-documented. He'll learn from it just like the week before."
The Ravens have run for more than 200 yards in each of the last three games. The emergence of Gus Edwards, an undrafted rookie from Rutgers, has coincided with that success. He had two consecutive 100-yard performances before finishing with 82 yards on 21 carries against the Falcons.
Edwards has taken over the starting job for Alex Collins, who was placed on IR with an injured foot.
The Ravens have been able to dominate time of possession with the revamped running attack, keeping opposing offences off the field. That strategy will be especially vital this week against Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has thrown for 3,923 yards with a staggering 41 touchdowns.
"I feel like we're controlling the clock, keeping our defence off the field, keeping them fresh, and taking the air out of their pass rush," offensive lineman Marshal Yanda said "That's a big deal."
The running game has also helped the Ravens defenders stay fresh late in the game. Baltimore has converted a pair turnovers into touchdowns the last two weeks and is ranked No. 1 for overall defence.
"We really don't care what people say outside," linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "We have a standard as a Ravens defence, whether we're home, away or at a neutral site, on how we want to play football, and that's always been being physical at the point of attack, stopping the run and getting after the quarterback on third down."
The Ravens have bounced back from a three-game losing streak heading into their bye. That skid prompted questions about the future of Harbaugh with the franchise.
Now, Baltimore can control its destiny to end the playoff drought and quiet the critics.
Harbaugh is proud of the way his players responded to the adversity.
"I think we have a lot of leaders and guys that have been through a lot," Harbaugh said. "Our guys have been through a lot of challenges and that's usually the best way of learning how to deal with adversity. I think they have done a good job."
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL