Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged this week the Baltimore Ravens are going to need at least 10 wins to avoid missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
That means the Ravens will have to close out this season on a 7-3 run.
Baltimore missed a golden opportunity last week against the Bears, who entered the game 1-4 and had a rookie quarterback making his first start on the road. The Ravens (3-3) lost 27-24 in overtime and that could ultimately turn out to be the most costly setback this season.
“Spinning your wheels right now, being .500, is in the hunt,” Harbaugh said. “We are very much in it. We have had three pretty good games – in some ways, excellent games. We have had three not-so-good games, and it has not been across the board. It has been this [or] that, that has cost us. We need to find a way to win games. That is really what it boils down to.”
The Ravens enter this week’s game at Minnesota with the 27th-ranked offense and are 30th in passing. While quarterback Joe Flacco is catching the brunt of the criticism, his receivers have struggled to make plays.
Flacco is just trying to stay focused on the next game as opposed to worrying about the playoff implications.
“I don’t want to look at the big picture right now,” Flacco said. “Yes, we can talk all day about, ‘Hey, we’re 3-3, and everybody else is 3-3, and there are a couple teams that aren’t. We can steal a game here, steal a game there.’ We have to be so focused on this one game right now, and that’s all that matters to us.
“Because if we don’t, then at the end of the season, when we can all, realistically, talk about the big picture, ‘This happened in this game, and this happened in that game,’ we’re going to possibly regret trying to focus on the big picture things in Week 7, when we should have just been focusing on the Minnesota Vikings.”
Harbaugh also defended offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, quashing rumors that he was on the hot seat. Mornhinweg had come under increased scrutiny for his play-calling after Baltimore failed to score an offensive touchdown in the loss to the Bears.
Harbaugh said the team’s struggles extend beyond Mornhinweg.
“Marty is a great coach,” Harbaugh said. “There is no question in my mind about it. I have seen him over the years. I know what he can do. I know what he is trying to do. I know what all the coaches are trying to do. You do everything you can to put your guys in position to make plays, and you are in it together. The players are in it together; the coaches are in it together.”
Entering the season, Baltimore’s defense was drawing comparisons to the record-setting 2000 unit, which paved the way for the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.
After a strong start, that unit faltered when nose tackle Brandon Williams suffered a foot injury that kept him out of the past four games. Baltimore has allowed 169.5 rushing yards per game and gone 1-3 without Williams in the lineup.
However, Williams is back at practice this week. His presence would be a huge boost against the Vikings, who already lost starting running back Dalvin Cook to a season-ending knee injury.
The Ravens could get back to their defensive roots this week to gather some momentum in the second half of the season. Baltimore’s schedule is not that imposing the rest of the way, especially playing Green Bay without its quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Houston without J.J. Watt and Andrew Luck potentially shut down by the Colts.
In short, the Ravens do control their own playoff destiny. A trip to the postseason would answer a lot of questions for this team moving forward.
“You try to stack as many wins as you can,” Harbaugh said. “We have three wins at this point. We are going to need to go more than .500 the rest of the way to accomplish what we want to accomplish, but we need to get about 10 wins. We need to find a way to put wins together.”