HOUSTON — It was a serious week around the Baltimore Ravens’ training complex, a time of raw emotions and stinging wounds following a costly loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There was a lot of fallout after relinquishing control of first place in the AFC North.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was under siege, publicly and privately, as he absorbed blunt criticism for his play-calling. He joined in the bashing, pointing the finger at himself for a protection flaw that doomed the Ravens’ cause.
Veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason compared an underachieving offense to the Bad News Bears, and no one refuted his strong opinions.
Of course, the bank accounts of Jameel McClain and Haloti Ngata are a combined $60,000 lighter after being heavily fined by the league office for hits that caused Heath Miller to suffer a concussion and Ben Roethlisberger to undergo surgery to repair his broken nose.
And tight end Todd Heap’s hamstring is still aching badly enough that it will prevent him from playing in tonight’s game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.
It’s tough times like these that try the Ravens’ resolve.
Seeking to head off consecutive losses for the first time this season, Ravens coach John Harbaugh conducted what’s been characterized as an important team meeting Wednesday morning when the team returned to work.
"He’s a guy that handles the team in both success in victory and in losses very well," assistant head coach and special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "And in the locker room and in the meeting we had on Wednesday morning, it was really a standup meeting for all of our guys and for coach Harbaugh. I think the leadership at the helm and being as steady as he is, I think we all feel that, the coaches and the players.
"We have a lot of football left, four games in the regular season. It’s hard to imagine we still have a quarter of our season left, but we do. So, we still have a lot to do yet and John has set us on that path."
After each of the Ravens’ four losses this season, which have come by a combined total of 16 points, they’ve bounced back with a victory the following week.
Under Harbaugh, they’re 15-1 against teams with losing records such as the Texans (5-7), who have been defeated in five of their past six games.
As the Ravens prepare to square off with a potent, dangerous Texans offense, resiliency has become a watchword in the locker room.
"We’re on a mission," safety Ed Reed said. "We come to prepare for a Super Bowl. We knew where we are and what we need to do. This is no time for anybody to fall back or not do their job. We’ve got a lot of older guys, a lot of guys who love football, a lot of guys who understand where they are in life and enjoy working to be where they are. That alone will help us to bounce back."
All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis didn’t trust himself to say the right things after the bitter loss to the Steelers.
Lewis was upset enough that he quickly dressed and bolted out of the locker room without taking with reporters, issuing an apology Wednesday
Days later, Lewis had compartmentalized the setback.
"Honestly when you put your heart outside like that and to lose the game like that, it can mess with you," Lewis said. "I always tell you guys, you always go through your 24-hour rule. Get it out of your system, win, lose or draw, and then it’s done.
"We have enough veterans and we have enough guys on this team that we let them understand what we’re fighting for. So when you do lose a game like that, we let them know the position you could’ve been in and now the position you’re not in. At the end of the day, you want to be in the playoffs. There’s a certain way you can be there if you take care of business."
For the Ravens, that started with an intense, fully-padded practice Wednesday.
That’s unusual for this time of year when players are sore after playing the majority of their schedule, especially after a physical loss to the Steelers.
By all accounts, Harbaugh’s unsubtle message achieved the desired result: a sharp, focused week of preparation.
"I thought we had an excellent week of practice," Harbaugh said. "One thing about our guys, they’re professionals. I heard a couple guys say it. It’s a tough loss, and I think everybody had a tough time getting over it: fans, coaches, players.
"It means a lot to all of us. The Ravens mean a lot to all of us, but we’ve got to bounce back. You really don’t have until the next game to do that. You have to do it the next day, and I thought our guys did a good job of that."
The Ravens are chasing a third consecutive playoff berth under Harbaugh, who has won 28 of his 44 regular-season games and three of five playoff games.
In franchise history, the Ravens have never made the playoffs three years in a row.
Over the past few weeks, Harbaugh has displayed some of the strain of the season while demanding more and more from his players.
At times, he’s been noticeably testy and surly with reporters.
According to Rosburg, Harbaugh has the pulse of the team and has provided strong leadership.
"Because he stands in front of the room and he stands tall, both physically and emotionally, and everybody in our room has taken responsibility for what happened on that Sunday night, John included," Rosburg said. "And when you have a bunch of men in the room and there are players and coaches and we’re all together in that, then it’s a lot easier to bear the weight when you’re all bearing it together."