OWINGS MILLS — Apologies in football are usually reserved for defeats of the disastrous variety.
While the Baltimore Ravens aren’t celebrating how they barely survived being upset by the winless Buffalo Bills, they’re not inclined to reject a 37-34 overtime victory that boosted their record to 5-2 heading into a bye week.
Despite shoddy pass coverage, poor tackling, an unproductive kick return game and an inconsistent offense, the Ravens managed to defeat the Bills.
“We’re very pleased with the victory,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s the mark of a good football team: Sometimes, you don’t play your best, but you find a way to win.”
The Ravens allowed 506 yards of total offense, their most in a decade. They gave up a season-high for points as Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick shredded the secondary for four touchdown passes.
And this marked the second consecutive week the Ravens squandered a fourth-quarter lead.
The Ravens were up 34-24 with six minutes remaining in regulation, but the Bills still were able to score in a hurry and get into overtime. The previous week, the Ravens had built a 20-10 advantage over the New England Patriots before losing 23-20 in overtime.
“We’re concerned about that and not happy about that,” Harbaugh said. “We need to get stops in the fourth quarter, and we need to get first downs. We could have won both those games, and neither one of them would have gone into overtime.”
The Ravens were ranked third in the league in total defense heading into the Bills game.
After Fitzpatrick passed for 374 yards and became the first quarterback to throw four touchdowns against a traditionally stout Baltimore defense since Peyton Manning three years ago, the Ravens fell to ninth overall.
In particular, strong safety Dawan Landry had issues tackling in the open field. Cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb missed tackles, too.
“We didn’t tackle well in the secondary,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think we tackled well at all in the game. That was probably the biggest factor.
“There were about eight plays that went for big yards that could have been controlled with better tackling. That was disappointing, and surprising.”
The Ravens don’t play again until a Nov. 7 home game against the Miami Dolphins.
The players have the week off following a brief workout this morning.
And the coaching staff will spend the week devising game plans for the Dolphins and a road game against the Atlanta Falcons four days later.
Several players, including tight end Todd Heap (right shoulder stinger), could use some time off to recuperate from their injuries.
“We definitely need this rest,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “I think that kind out showed out there on the field.”
Positioned well to contend in the AFC North despite some shortcomings on special teams and in pass coverage, the Ravens are undefeated in three home games. They own a pair of impressive road victories over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets.
Their only two losses are to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Patriots, and the combined margin of defeat is only eight points.
“Never satisfied, always content,” Harbaugh said. “I like the work ethic, I like the attention to detail, I like the way they compete. We’d rather be 7-0 than 5-2, but we’re not. What we need to do is focus on being 6-2.”
The Ravens have legitimate Super Bowl ambitions, but are far from overconfident.
They’ve got enough issues, including a languishing pass rush, to address to prevent cockiness from pervading the locker room.
“I think our offense going into this break, they have a lot of confidence going, knowing they can put up a lot of points,” cornerback Chris Carr said. “I don’t think they’re going to be arrogant because a lot of times during the season I think they’ve been humbled. As a defense, we definitely have been humbled the past two weeks.
“It’s one of those things where I think our attitude is we’re 5-2, we’re in good position, but we need to get better. People really need to buckle down and not think about having fun. People need to think about getting their bodies right and getting ready to come back, because we have a tough stretch ahead of us.”