Har­baugh: 3-0 mark is good but not enough

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS & NFL - Ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun

some­thing we need to do. We need to play bet­ter and bet­ter foot­ball.”

The Ravens are 3-0 for the third time in fran­chise his­tory. The 2006 squad won its first four games but fell short of a 5-0 start in a 13-3 loss at the Den­ver Bron­cos. In 2009, the Ravens won their first three games but lost the fol­low­ing three. Both those teams made the play­offs.

How­ever you per­ceive their play through three weeks this year, it ap­pears the Ravens are on the right side of re­cent his­tory. Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures pro­vided by the NFL, 75.6 per­cent of the teams (99 of 131) that won their first three games since 1990 have qual­i­fied for the play­offs. And in the past 10 years, 74.4 per­cent of the teams (32 of 43) that started 3-0 made the post­sea­son.

Those num­bers might pro­vide some as­sur­ance, but they aren’t in­sur­ance for the fu­ture, Har­baugh noted.

“Not re­ally, be­cause they won an­other seven or eight or nine games, and we’re go­ing to have to do that to make the play­offs,” he said. “So our con­cern needs to be win those other games. We talk about stack­ing. We want to stack good meet­ings, good prac­tices, good weightlift­ing ses­sions. We want to stack wins, and that’s re­ally the task at hand.”

There are cer­tainly ar­eas the team must ad­dress be­fore Sun­day’s game against the Oak­land Raiders (2-1) at M&T Bank Sta­dium.

Only six of­fenses have posted fewer rush­ing yards per game than the Ravens’ 82.3. And the unit’s lone rush­ing touch­down has come from quar­ter­back Joe Flacco, not run­ning backs Justin Forsett or Ter­rance West.

The sight of rookie run­ning back Ken­neth Dixon run­ning sprints on an empty prac­tice field Fri­day might in­ject some hope that the run game can be re­vived by the fourth-round pick, who led the team in rush­ing in the pre­sea­son be­fore sus­tain­ing a strained MCL in his left knee against the Detroit Lions on Aug. 27. But it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that one player could over­haul an en­tire unit.

The ab­sence of a con­sis­tent ground game has forced the of­fense to rely on Flacco, who is tied with the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers’ Ben Roeth­lis­berger, the Raiders’ Derek Carr and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Alex Smith for sev­enth in the league in passes per game at 39.3. At this rate, Flacco is on pace to eclipse his pre­vi­ous ca­reer high of 614 at­tempts set in 2013.

Har­baugh ac­knowl­edged that the pass­ing at­tack needs more sup­port from the rush­ing of­fense.

“We have to run the ball ef­fec­tively,” he said, pre­fer­ring qual­ity (yards gained) over quan­tity (run­pass ra­tio). “We’ve got to be able to run the ball for some chunk yards. We’ve got to pop some runs, we’ve got to force peo­ple to de­fend the run be­cause that opens up the pass­ing game. We’re not do­ing that as well as we want to do it right now.”

The team has won de­spite scor­ing just one touch­down apiece in vic­to­ries against the Buf­falo Bills and the Jaguars. But Har­baugh said he is not stress­ing over his team’s strug­gles in find­ing the end zone.

“I am con­fi­dent that the touch­downs are go­ing to come,” he said. “I re­ally do be­lieve that we’ll get there. You have to do what you have to do to win a game. If we had been able to score touch­downs in that game, it wouldn’t have come down to what it came down to. We need to score touch­downs, and I am very con­fi­dent that we can get there with our of­fense. I don’t think we’re far away.”

The sav­ing grace has been the play of a de­fense that ranks sec­ond only to the Seat­tle Sea­hawks in yards al­lowed per game (254.3) and first downs per game (14.0).

But the de­fense will get tested by a Raiders of­fense that ranks sec­ond in rush­ing (148.3 yards per game) and to­tal of­fense (436.0), and eighth in points (26.7).

Har­baugh un­der­stands the co­nun­drum fans and ob­servers are mired in when try­ing to as­sess the strength of this Ravens squad. But any­thing be­yond Sun­day’s game against Oak­land mat­ters lit­tle to the coach and his play­ers.

“Where do we fit right now? And that’s what peo­ple are try­ing to fig­ure out,” he said. “But re­ally, we’re go­ing to fit where we fit based on how we han­dle these chal­lenges. I guess I’m cir­cling back to say it re­ally is hard to win in the Na­tional Foot­ball League. Ev­ery­body’s re­ally good. Peo­ple have re­ally good coaches and re­ally tal­ented play­ers, and these guys fight like crazy out there to win a foot­ball game. You only play 16 of them. That’s how valu­able these games are. So that 31⁄ hours, and I think that’s why peo­ple love watch­ing it. It’s re­ally a dra­matic strug­gle. So when you win one, it’s a real sense of ac­com­plish­ment, and you feel like you’ve done some­thing worth­while.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.