The mantra Ravens head coach John Harbaugh expressed over and over again during his Monday press conference was a simple one: find ways to win.
Bye weeks help everyone. The players get a chance to rest, and the coaching staff gets an opportunity to review their missteps. It gives teams, particularly ones that have struggled like the Ravens – a fresh start to the second half of the season.
“You take everything into account,” Harbaugh said about this fresh start. “We have nine games left. We’re basically one game down in our division, playing the team that’s ahead of us right now.
“Our goal is certainly going to be to win the division. That’s in front of us. It’s up to us. We’re going to play those teams. No matter what our record would be in that range of what it could be right now, we have to beat the teams in our division to make anything of it anyway.
“That’s what we’re looking to do.”
Despite their mediocre (and at times, worse) play during the first half of the season, Harbaugh’s Ravens still find themselves very much in the thick of things in the AFC North. Historically one of the league’s best, the division has been struggling as a whole through the first half of the year. Only one team is over .500 (Pittsburgh), while the league’s only winless team (Cleveland) also resides within.
“I haven’t really analyzed it,” said Harbaugh about the division’s woes. “It really doesn’t matter to me right now. Our focus is on becoming the best team we can be, playing the best football we can play and winning these close games.”
Close games have again been a thorn in the side of Baltimore. The Ravens losses have been by 1, 6, 4, and 8 points, respectively.
Searching for Balance
One thing Harbaugh and his staff looked at hard during the bye week was establishing a balance on the offensive side of the football. After the season’s first seven weeks, Joe Flacco led the NFL in passing attempts. Considering the number of close games they’ve been involved in (all of them), there is really no excuse for the scales to be tipped so dramatically.
The plan moving forward is to attack opponents’ weaknesses, with the obvious hope of scoring more and coming up on the right side of the scoreboard after 60 minutes.
“The bottom line is that you want to move the ball,” said Harbaugh. “The successful offenses … When you talk about it, you don’t really ask that question. They are attacking weaknesses. They might be imbalanced.
“I can think of a couple that sometimes they run it almost every time in a game, sometimes they throw it almost every time in a game. Really, it doesn’t come down to that as long as you are successful. When you are not successful, those are the questions that get asked, and that is where the finger gets pointed.
“The main thing is execution. You have to be good at whatever you do. We do want to be able to run the ball so I don’t shy away from that. I think it is important to be able to run the ball well. There are going to be times where the defense is just begging for you to throw it on them. If you do it well, people are going to be happy with you.
“That is what we need to do – we need to be good at what we do.”
The Ravens have nine games remaining and will have every chance in the world to be good at what they do.
No more excuses. It’s crunch time – starting on Sunday.
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