OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens’ most glaring weakness could cost them an opportunity to utilize their strongest quality in the playoffs.
They are flawed on the road and perfect at home, so earning home-field advantage in the postseason is their most important priority. Yet almost every time the Ravens take a step in that direction, they subsequently get knocked back.
One week after stepping into first place in the AFC North with an emotional win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore (6-3) dropped into second with a 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
It was the extension of an annoying trend. Twice earlier this season, the Ravens lost to a sub-.500 team on the road after a significant victory. But coach John Harbaugh bristled Monday when asked to find a common thread in the defeats.
“Every game stands on its own two feet,” he said. “The comparisons that people want to draw between those three games,
it’s all hypothetical, theoretical stuff.”
Harbaugh was clearly perturbed by the suggestion that the Ravens’ abandoned their running game too quickly, and he did not care for the question of whether the Ravens’ problem in those losses was more mental than physical.
“I’m not a psychologist,” he said. “I think what you do is look at football. You look at what you can do better as a football
team. We’re moving forward. We took responsibility for the loss; we did not play well. I’m surprised I haven’t gotten questions about what happened in the game. That’s what you look at. I guess that’s too straightforward.”
There was no need to ask. Beyond gaining only 75 yards on the ground (only 27 by Ray Rice), the Ravens committed three turnovers, including two on kickoff returns by David Reed.
“You learn from these mistakes about coming in to a hostile environment, turning the ball over, giving people a short field,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “You saw them, they kept thriving off that. Take three, take three (points). Any time you keep building those threes, sooner or later you’re going to put yourself in a deep hole, and we put ourselves in a hole.”
Harbaugh wondered why everyone tried to find a comment element in Baltimore’s defeats, yet didn’t bother to compare the team’s most impressive victories, which include a sweep of the Steelers and home wins over the New York Jets and Houston Texans.
“We won some other football games that people didn’t expect us to win against some really good teams,” he said. “Tie the
psychology together on that for me, you know? But I don’t have time to be looking at that. We’re going back to football.”
Fortunately for Baltimore, its next two games are at home, beginning Sunday against Cincinnati and followed by a
brother-versus-brother encounter on Thanksgiving night against Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers.
That will be followed by a trip to Cleveland on Dec. 4 against another team with a losing record. But Harbaugh and the Ravens won’t worry about that game for a while.
And perhaps it’s too early to be thinking about home-field advantage, although it’s no small issue for the Ravens. In each of Harbaugh’s previous three seasons, Baltimore has entered — and exited — the postseason as a wild-card team.
The Ravens still own the tie-breaker over the Steelers, but it won’t matter if Baltimore finishes behind Pittsburgh, or the
Bengals for that matter.
“The story of the season is going to written at the end,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not writing that story right now. The story
for us is this week. You look at last week and you correct it. All the other story lines, I’d like to give you an answer. But I’m really not interested. It’s not my job to have that answer for you.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)