Monday, November 4, 2013
History and reality are different for Ravens
By Jamison Hensley
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Recent NFL history says the Ravens can still reach the playoffs despite a 3-5 record. The Ravens' track record suggests they can rebound from this three-game losing streak.
But, to steal a line from Browns cornerback Joe Haden, it's becoming clear that these aren't the same Ravens of old. The old Ravens were perfect coming off the bye. The old Ravens were undefeated against the Browns over a stretch of 11 meetings heading into Sunday. In Sunday's 24-18 loss at Cleveland, the Ravens fell to the Browns for the first time since 2007 and dropped their first game following a bye under coach John Harbaugh. History hasn't become reality for the Ravens this season.
This is why it's difficult to think the Ravens can get everything back on track simply because they've done so in the past. There are too many recurring problems throughout the first half of the season -- slow starts, struggling running game and poor finishes on defense -- to believe everything is going to get rectified in the second half.
John Harbaugh's Ravens are tied with Houston and Jacksonville for the most losses (four) in games decided by three points or fewer.
Harbaugh, though, would argue otherwise.
"As it stands, we're in a tough spot. But I believe in our guys, coaches and players," Harbaugh said Monday. "I know we have what it takes to be a very good football team in the second half of the season. What we do in the first half does not determine what we do in the second half. We have opportunities to accomplish everything we want to accomplish. We understand that. Now, our focus becomes one game. What we need to do is win one game. Momentum is a crazy thing. You have to stop theirs and build yours. Once you do that, you have a chance to build on that."
If you're searching for hope for the reeling Ravens, 32 teams since 2000 have reached the halfway point of a season with a .500 or below win percentage and still gone on to reach the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It has happened in each of the 13 seasons over that time, including three times last season: Redskins (3-5), Bengals (3-5) and the Seahawks (4-4).
The Ravens also have a history of recovering from losing three games in a row. This is the fourth time in Harbaugh's six seasons that his team has had such a losing streak. In 2008, the Ravens won four straight following a three-game losing streak. In 2009, the Ravens recovered from a three-game skid to make the playoffs with a 9-7 record. And, last season, the Ravens lost three consecutive times in December and won the Super Bowl in February.
How do the Ravens respond to this losing streak? Harbaugh wants the Ravens to concentrate on themselves, not the other teams on the schedule.
"To me, the biggest thing is to focus on our job," Harbaugh said. "The best players are the best players because they play the best. They do that by dominating their job. If you want to be a really good player, just dominate your job. Just focus on that. If we all do that, you get a little bit better all way across the board and then we have a chance to get over the hump."
Right now, only four teams in the AFC have a worse record than the Ravens: Buffalo (3-6), Houston (2-6), Pittsburgh (2-6) and Jacksonville (0-8). But the Ravens haven't conceded the division yet.
The Ravens are in third place but they trail the Bengals (6-3) by two games. Baltimore plays Cincinnati twice in the final eight games of the season, including Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
"There's half a season left to play," Harbaugh said. "There's a lot of games out there for us to win. We need to go stack some wins. It's all about the next game. Cincinnati is leading the division, so this is an opportunity for us."
Here are some other notes from Harbaugh's press conference:
Left guard Kelechi Osemele will be placed on injured reserve. He is expected to have a three-to-four month recovery from back surgery, which would allow him to be ready for the team's offseason workout program.
Cornerback Asa Jackson is eligible to play after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. The Ravens may need extra depth at cornerback with Jimmy Smith nursing a groin injury. "Hopefully, he's in that kind of shape where he can slide right in there and help us," Harbaugh said. "We'll see if he can help us this week. If he can, with our situation at corner, that could be a plus for us."