John Harbaugh suggested the idea that the Ravens are trying to do too much.
Blown coverages, missed tackles and mental errors … those types of mistakes are not indicative of how the Ravens traditionally play football.
Harbaugh is determined to get the team back on the rails heading into a critical Week 5 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finally earned their first win in Week 4 against the Bengals.
A loss at Heinz Field would drop the Ravens to 2-3 and into a second-place tie with Pittsburgh.
It’s a scenario Harbaugh, the coaches and players are working hard to avoid.
“We’re not a defense that doesn’t tackle,” Harbaugh said. “We never have been. And we’re not a defense that gives up big pass plays. We just never have been, not consistently. And we’re not going to be that this year, and it’s going to get fixed.
“It should have been fixed last week. A couple different things came up, and it has to get corrected this week. And I’m sure we’re going to get tested. I guarantee you Pittsburgh is going to be throwing those same types of routes, and we have to play them better.”
The Ravens have allowed more than 500 yards of total offense in each of their two losses to Kansas City and Cleveland. The secondary has been the main culprit, allowing big plays downfield.
Harbaugh is confident the team has enough playmakers to correct these errors. However, lapses on defense are becoming more of a trend than an aberration.
“There are just so many variables in football. I wish it was the exact same things, then it would be a lot easier to correct,” Harbaugh said. “But it’s in the general pot. And the general pot that it’s in is in our zone coverages, just playing them, not overplaying them.
“We’re overplaying some of our zone coverages. We’re overplaying some routes. We’re chasing some patterns that really fall in the category of trying to do too much. That’s not what we need to do. You just need to do your job, be in your right spot, and play football. We have a fast team. We have guys that can play the ball.”
Despite the recent two-game skid, the Ravens have plenty of time to get back on track with divisional games against the Steelers and Bengals. A pair of victories would put the Ravens at 4-2 and potentially back in control of the AFC North.
The Browns travel to San Francisco and host Seattle before their bye. Cleveland returns with another tough road game against New England on Oct. 27.
The Ravens need to take advantage of their opportunities while the season is still young.
“We can control our own destiny, and it starts in Pittsburgh, which is always a big challenge,” Harbaugh said. “They’re a very good team, obviously, a big rival. We just need to go in there and find a way to win the game, which we’re very capable of doing. It starts with playing our best football, which we go to work on this week. So, that’s where we’re at.”
The Ravens are battle-tested.
Last season, they were sitting at 4-5 and lost Joe Flacco to a hip injury. Lamar Jackson took over as the starter and led the team to victories in six of their final seven games, snapping a three-year playoff drought.
As a result, there is still a sense of optimism permeating in Owings Mills despite the recent struggles.
Entering Week 5, the Ravens have the league’s No. 1 overall offense with 1,930 yards (482.5 ypg). The defense, however, has fallen to No. 27 with 1,582 yards allowed (395.5 ypg).
“We’ve been through it all, and the thing we recognize and understand is that it’s a long season in the National Football League, and it’s a week-to-week proposition – always has been and always will be,” Harbaugh said. “You learn from that. You learn to keep an even keel and understand that you’re going to play good games, and you’re going to play not good games.
“It’s not like college football, where it’s one loss and you’re out.”
Buy Todd’s new book, No Limits, on Mark Amatucci’s storied coaching career at Calvert Hall and Loyola College, at Amazon.