By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens have been here before. In fact, they’re here almost every season. The perennial championship contenders have always had something that rubs fans and analysts the wrong way. In 2008, it was the rookie quarterback. In 2010, it was getting past the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2011, it was defeating inferior opponents.
In 2012, it’s defeating teams on the road. In every instance, the Ravens overcame adversity and progressed to the postseason. But the teams were never strong enough to make it to the Super Bowl, due in large part to their struggles in the regular season. For instance, had Baltimore defeated the Seahawks and Jaguars in 2011, they would have secured home field advantage. Billy Cundiff, who had not missed a field goal attempt at home that season, may have made the game tying field goal to send the AFC Championship to overtime. As well as Baltimore plays at home, Baltimore probably doesn’t even need the kick.
The point to all of this is simple. The Ravens don’t have until later to fix their issues. Unlike baseball, every game in the NFL is important. Coach Harbaugh caught fans’ attention with something he said earlier this week.
“As far as I am concerned, [Cleveland] is a must-win game.”
He’s absolutely right. Cleveland is a must win game. But so was the game against Philadelphia. And so is the game against Pittsburgh a few weeks from now. The Ravens can’t afford to lose any games. With their road woes a major cause for concern, it is imperative for them to lock up home-field advantage if they hope to advance to the Super Bowl.
That’s not to pick on Coach Harbaugh; he clearly understands that if the Ravens are going to keep Pittsburgh (4-3) at bay, they’ll have to take care of business on Sunday. But the Ravens need to have used the bye to find out what has held this team back on the road. The Ravens believe the changes that need to be made are small; shooting down any rumors that drastic changes are in order.
“We’re not making any wholesale changes,” Harbaugh told reporters on Monday. “It’s not like we have to switch everything around and make some huge, momentous moves.”
That is a wise decision– the team is 5-2 for a reason. Besides Houston, who was recently trounced by the Packers in Reliant Stadium, there isn’t a better team in the AFC than the Baltimore Ravens. The changes that need to be made are indeed small.
Run the football more. Tackle better. And the rest will take care of itself. The talent is evident in Baltimore. Joe Flacco has played great at home. There’s no reason he can’t play well on the road. The Ravens defense was dominant last season. There’s no reason to think they can’t be great again this year.
“The key is reacting, but not overreacting,” Harbaugh said. “Understanding that it’s a 16-game season and it’s a tough league. This is just part of the process of building a football team. These are the kind of things you have to work through.”
The Giants won the Super Bowl last year with a pitiful defense. At one point, they possessed a record of 7-7. They had to overcome the challenges that come with a 16-game season, as do the Ravens.
“You can’t achieve anything without going through some adversity,” said Harbaugh. “So, the opportunity that is presented to us now is an opportunity to get better — to become whatever it is we’re going to become.”
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.