Ravens look to get back on track
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.”
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.