OWINGS MILLS, Maryland — The Baltimore Ravens will attempt to rebound from their frustrating loss to the Cincinnati Bengals without cornerback Jimmy Smith, who will be sidelined for several weeks with a sprained left foot.
Baltimore (5-3) fell out of first place in the AFC North with a 27-24 defeat in Cincinnati on Sunday.
Smith left during the opening drive and did not return. The Ravens subsequently allowed several long passing plays, including a 53-yarder that set up the game-winning touchdown with 57 seconds left.
Now in his fifth season, Smith started all 16 games last year and the first eight this season.
Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Smith has a "mid-foot sprain" and will "be out a few weeks," beginning with Sunday night's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dominique Franks filled in for Smith against Cincinnati. If the Ravens don't sign or trade for another cornerback this week, they'll just have to make do with what they've got.
"The way this organization is run, and the way that we practice, we're built for things like that to happen," Franks said. "It's sad to see Jimmy go down, but at the same time I had to step up and other guys had to step up."
Sunday's loss was particularly distasteful because Baltimore rallied to take the lead in the fourth quarter before Cincinnati came back. Then, an apparent 80-yard touchdown from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith was wiped out when Smith was called for pushing off defender George Iloka to get open.
Harbaugh bristled on Monday when asked about the play and said he sent a copy of the play to the league office.
After insisting he couldn't comment on the call because of "league policy," Harbaugh said, "It was a great play. I think it shows great heart and talent and effort. It says a lot about Joe and Steve and the offensive line that they could make a play like that. It was one of the greatest plays I've ever seen. That's how I feel about it. What else can I say?"
A week ago, the Ravens were in first place. With a loss to the rival Steelers (5-3) on Sunday night, they could be in third.
That's how important that pass interference call was for Baltimore.
"We've got to find ways to get better, maybe not come down to that play, be so good that a play like that doesn't even to be needed," Harbaugh said. "But if you have to make a play like that, it's good to know you can. I'm pretty confident that we'll be able to make more plays along those lines as the season goes on."
In spite of it all, Harbaugh likes where the Ravens stand at the midpoint of the season.
"We definitely played ourselves into position to compete for the AFC North championship and we find ourselves in position obviously for a playoff berth, which is the ultimate goal," he said. "We want to get into the tournament first, we want to win the division next, we want to win the conference and then we want to win it all. That's what we're shooting for. We're 5-3. We're in position to do that."
The Ravens beat Pittsburgh at home 26-6 on Sept. 11, so a victory would give Baltimore the tie-breaker with the Steelers should the teams finish tied.
Strangely enough, the Ravens will have only one division game left after this one, on Dec. 28 at home against Cleveland. In contrast, the Bengals have played only two games within the AFC North — both against Baltimore.
Asked his thoughts on the schedule, Harbaugh replied, "It's just a waste of energy thinking about it. We've just got to try to win as many as we can, especially the division games."