OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — A difficult early season schedule is making it easier for the Baltimore Ravens to look toward their next challenge rather than agonize over their 24-23 defeat in Philadelphia.
Coming off a season-opening 44-13 rout of AFC North rival Cincinnati, Baltimore (1-1) gave up 486 yards in offense to the Eagles, failed to take advantage of four turnovers and virtually abandoned its running game in the second half of Sunday’s loss.
Coach John Harbaugh, his staff and players studied the game film Monday. Unlike the week before, when Baltimore dismantled the Bengals in a near-flawless performance, the Ravens put their blemishes and weaknesses on full display in Philadelphia.
If they can learn from the experience, it will serve them well Sunday night against New England (1-1) in a rematch of last season’s AFC title game.
“You’re never going to forget it,” Harbaugh said. “But anytime you lose it creates an opportunity. When you win, you look at everything really hard and try to build on it. When you lose, man, that sting really forces you to dig deep. All of us. It’s human nature.
“If we can take this week and make the most of the fact that we didn’t win the game and find ways to do a lot of things better and grow as a football team, in the long run that’s how you get to where you’re going. We’re going to try to make it into a positive and come back swinging.”
The Patriots represent the next notch in a tough September for the Ravens. The Bengals reached the playoffs last season, Philadelphia is always tough at home and New England is a perennial contender.
Last January, Baltimore missed an opportunity to advance to the Super Bowl by dropping a 23-20 decision to the Patriots on the road. This game will be under the lights in Baltimore, and both teams will try to avoid falling under .500 after getting beat on Sunday.
The Patriots’ loss — 20-18 at home against Arizona — was more shocking than the Ravens’ misstep in Philadelphia. Both teams, however, had plenty of chances to win.
The Ravens led 17-7 at halftime, but Joe Flacco completed only eight of 25 passes over the final 30 minutes and handed off to Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice just nine times. Most notably, after the Ravens fell behind 24-23 with 1:55 left, Flacco threw incomplete passes on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 46.
“Anytime it doesn’t work, you look back on it and say, `I wish we’d have done something else,”‘ Harbaugh said. “Maybe some kind of a run would have popped through there. Maybe it wouldn’t have. I’m pretty sure if we’d have called a run and it hadn’t gone, you’d be wondering why we didn’t throw.”
Baltimore was 4 for 14 on third down and 0 for 2 on fourth down.
“When we were in many of the third downs, they were not long ones and I would have liked to have gotten some of them,” Rice said. “We just need to execute better.”
The same could be said of the defense. Baltimore couldn’t contain tight end Brent Celek, who had eight catches for 157 yards. That does not bode well for Sunday’s pending confrontation with New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, who totaled 1,327 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns last year.
“It’s got to be addressed,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t do a good job of covering (Celek), obviously. It wasn’t so much that the tight end got free, it was more issues with the way we handled basic coverages. They took advantage of it.”
Harbaugh had no complaints about his team’s effort, and he’s certain that kind of determination will ultimately result in victories.
“I do like our players in situations where they have opportunities to do some things,” Harbaugh said. “Most of the time that’s going to pay off for us. I feel strongly about our players, their effort, the physical level of their play in a tough environment, the way they competed, the way they handled the pressure. I think most times, as we move forward especially with this young offense, that putting it in their hands and giving them chances to make plays is going to be the thing to do.”
The only injury of note was safety Bernard Pollard, who bruised his rib cage in the first quarter and did not return. His availability for Sunday night, according to Harbaugh, will “come down to him and how he can deal with the pain.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)