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“It’s Not Pretty, But It’s Us!”

Ravens way
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The Ravens Way

This past Sunday the Ravens had a chance to do something that they’ve never done before in franchise history – start the season at (6-1). They had that opportunity in 2000, 2012 and 2020 but blew it each time. Sunday was no different. Perhaps even more importantly, the Ravens wasted their chance to take an early commanding lead in the AFC North. Instead, they are now looking up at the division leaders, the (5-2) Cincinnati Bengals, top dogs by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

It’s as if the Ravens way is not to enjoy prosperity – that they know that they’re a more dangerous club when their collective back is to the wall. Seemingly forever, but at least since the arrival of Brian Billick, the Ravens embrace the us-against-the-world mentality. Whether that’s really true or not, they believe it and that’s all that counts. Somehow it galvanizes the locker room and they re-focus with laser, steely-eyed resolve.

In 2000 the Ravens beat the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second time that season to advance to (5-1). However they were in the midst of a 21 quarter streak without a touchdown. Over the course of the next three games the Ravens scored just 15 points in total to drop to (5-4). But they stuck together despite the outside noise that turned against them. And they never lost again.

In 2012 the (5-1) Ravens traveled to Houston to take on the (5-1) Texans – and got destroyed, 43-13. The Texans had 420 yards of offense to the Ravens 176. Joe Flacco was 21 of 43 for 147 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs for a passer rating of 45.4. Meanwhile the “great” Matt Schaub went 23 of 37 for 256 yards, 2 TDs and no picks for a rating of 100.7. The Ravens had to sit on the embarrassing loss through the bye week that followed the Texas skull drag.

Ravens way
Photo Credit: Getty Images

In 2020 the (5-1) Ravens hosted their archrival Steelers before 4,500 fans and lost Ronnie Stanley early in the game to a broken ankle. The Pittsburgh defensive front ravaged Lamar Jackson who was sacked 4 times, hit 9 times and fumbled 3 times. The Ravens lost 28-24 but rebounded the following week in Indianapolis to advance to (6-2) but then went on a three-game skid towards the end of which they were ravage by COVID-19. After falling to (6-5) and their mettle tested once again, the Ravens ran the table to finish (11-5) eventually losing to the Bills in the Divisional Round.

Today we find the Ravens way in play once again. The 2021 season is just as adversity-rich as any other. The team has $39M in cap expenditures spread across 17 players, parked on injured reserve. And now at the bye, they are challenged in that they clearly have needs on offense and defense, but they have very limited funds to fix them via trade or street free agent acquisitions.

[Related Article: The Good, Bad & Ugly]

The Ravens could bolster their rather lackluster corps of running backs via trade with the Indianapolis Colts, in the form of Marlon Mack. They could land an upgrade at right tackle until Patrick Mekari returns via trade or free agency. Candidates include Jets T Morgan Moses and former Seahawks T Cedric Ogbuehi. Brian McFarland and I discuss this in detail in the podcast below.

How the balance of the season goes is anyone’s guess. But given the Ravens organizational grittiness as evidenced by the 2000, 2012 and 2020 seasons, two of which ended in championships, you just can’t count them out. In 2000 they weren’t the NFL’s best team but they figured out a way to win. In 2012, same thing.

It’s never easy with the Ravens. No one will ever think of them as the league’s beauty queens nor will they be among the best in style points. But the team’s willingness to stare down adversity, individually and collectively can’t be dismissed. Other teams have done it and paid the price. And just as Billick did all those years ago, John Harbaugh will use the doubters and naysayers to fuel the rest of the season, as he too has done in the past, and will surely do again.

There are plenty of opportunities ahead. The Ravens will take them on one at a time.

To paraphrase Harbaugh, it might not be perfect; it might not be pretty.

But it is the Ravens way.

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