Ravens look to get back on track

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS & NFL - Jeff.zre­biec@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jef­fzre­biec­sun

which we al­ways are, and work on the things that we need to do to get bet­ter,” Har­baugh said Mon­day. “That’s what we have here, a bunch of ac­count­able guys. We just need to find a way to be­come the type of foot­ball team we’re ca­pa­ble of be­com­ing. That’s al­ways a process and al­ways a jour­ney. I’m ex­cited about that.”

Amid the first four-game los­ing streak of the Har­baugh era and with a ros­ter thinned sig­nif­i­cantly by in­juries to prom­i­nent play­ers on both sides of the ball, the Ravens are em­brac­ing their bye as if it were a gift from the foot­ball gods. But be­fore the play­ers go their sep­a­rate ways Thurs­day for the start of a four-day break, they’ll be chal­lenged to go to work on the mis­takes that keep pop­ping up ev­ery week.

Af­ter a se­ries of meet­ings Mon­day, the Ravens (3-4) will prac­tice to­day and Wed­nes­day. They’ll re­con­vene Oct. 31 to start pre­par­ing for the Nov. 6 home matchup with the AFC North-lead­ing Pitts­burgh Steel­ers.

“These next two days, we’ve got some ideas that we’ve been kind of work­ing out,” Har­baugh said. “This will be an op­por­tu­nity to try some things. We’re not go­ing to have some big, mon­strous change in what we’re do­ing. We be­lieve in the things that we’re do­ing. We just want to do them bet­ter — game-plan them bet­ter, scheme them bet­ter, block them bet­ter, all those sorts of things. If there be­comes other things we can add to the mix or some things we take out, I think that’s what you do in the bye week. But we’ve got to get it go­ing. There’s no ques­tion about it.”

As down as the play­ers were in the vis­it­ing locker room at MetLife Sta­dium late Sun­day af­ter­noon, just about ev­ery one of them men­tioned that as bad as things looked, they are still right in the thick of the AFC North race. The Steel­ers, who also have a bye Sun­day be­fore trav­el­ing to M&T Bank Sta­dium on Nov. 6, have a one-game lead. The Ben­gals and Ravens are tied for sec­ond at 3-4.

“Ev­ery­thing is still right there for us to go cap­ture,” safety Eric Wed­dle said Sun­day. “Our goals are sim­ple: win the divi­sion, win the AFC and win the Su­per Bowl. That’s all at­tain­able.”

Har­baugh gave no de­fin­i­tive in­jury up­dates, but he ex­pressed op­ti­mism that the team will be “close to full strength” when it re­turns from the bye week. The hope is that wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (an­kle), left tackle Ron­nie Stan­ley (foot), right guard Mar­shal Yanda (shoul­der), rush line­backer Ter­rell Suggs (bi­ceps) and mid­dle line­backer C.J. Mosley (ham­string) could be ready to re­turn in time for Pitts­burgh.

That will cer­tainly help, as the Ravens haven’t even had the req­ui­site 46 healthy play­ers on game days the past two weeks. But even the play­ers rec­og­nized that im­proved health won’t cure all the team’s prob­lems.

“We have to look within our­selves and look at each other and kind of fix just the stupid stuff: penal­ties, missed tack­les,” nose tackle Bran­don Wil­liams said af­ter Sun­day’s game. “Every­body has some­thing to im­prove on.”

When the sea­son be­gan, there were prob­a­bly more ques­tions and con­cerns about the Ravens de­fense than the of­fense. But as they head into the bye week that has shifted, which is more of a re­flec­tion of how poorly quar­ter­back Joe Flacco and the of­fense has played, rather than any state­ment about an im­proved de­fense.

The Ravens are scor­ing 19 points per game; only six teams have av­er­aged fewer. Flacco has thrown just two touch­down passes com­pared to four in­ter­cep­tions over the past four games. Har­baugh ac­knowl­edged Mon­day that the quar­ter­back, who is throw­ing off his back foot far too of­ten, needs to “fo­cus on his fun­da­men­tals,” but also at­trib­uted some of his prob­lems to get­ting hit far too of­ten.

The of­fense’s prob­lems were on full dis­play in the sec­ond half against the Jets when the Ravens had just 42 yards on 27 plays. For the game, they rushed for a fran­chise-low 6 yards af­ter a sec­ond half in which had mi­nus-6 yards on the ground. Not only were the Ravens shut out in the sec­ond half, they didn’t even reach the red zone on of­fense for the en­tire game against a Jets de­fense that ranked 23rd in the NFL.

“That’s not even close,” said Har­baugh, as­sess­ing the of­fense’s ef­fort against the Jets. “That’s not even where we’re go­ing to be. It’s the Na­tional Foot­ball League. There are tough games, and that sec­ond half was about as tough as it gets for our of­fense. You just try and find a way to win a game with where you’re at. We just have to be much bet­ter than that, and that’s where we have work to do.”

While the de­fense has been bet­ter, they’ve strug­gled against speed and have got­ten back to al­low­ing big plays the past two weeks. Har­baugh said the Ravens took “hor­ren­dously bad an­gles to the foot­ball” against the Jets and added that it’s “about as bad as you’re ever go­ing to see as far as an­gles and tack­les.”

He shared that with his play­ers in the meet­ing Mon­day. Plenty of other prob­lems were dis­cussed.

“We­have great re­la­tion­ships, and I do like and love our guys. I told one of the guys in the meet­ing to­day, ‘I love you, but I de­spise you right now on that play.’ And guys get it,” Har­baugh said. “They’re OK. It’s all about just push­ing them and coach­ing them and trying to just teach bet­ter foot­ball, really, is where we’re at. I’ve been im­pa­tient for quite a long time, and they know it.”

KARL MER­TON FER­RON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Chris Moore, left, can’t make the catch, thwarted by the Jets’ Mar­cus Wil­liams on a fourth-down play in the Ravens’ loss to New York. The Ravens had only 42 yards on 27 plays in the sec­ond half Sun­day.

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