OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — There’s seemingly no limit to what John Harbaugh will do to get the Baltimore Ravens back on track.
The defending Super Bowl champions dipped below .500 with a 19-16 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday. As a result, a much-needed bye week won’t begin for the players until Thursday at the earliest.
“We have to get better. We have a lot to improve on,” Harbaugh said Monday. “We’re going to spend the next two days working on those things with the guys here. Then we’ll let them out of here Wednesday afternoon — as per the rules — and try to get some rest.”
If Harbaugh could keep the Ravens (3-4) on the practice field right up until the next game, Nov. 3 in Cleveland, he probably would.
This marks the latest point in a season that Baltimore has owned a losing record since Harbaugh took over in 2008.
Three of the Ravens’ four defeats have come by a total of eight points, their running game is virtually non-existent and the defense allowed the Steelers to rush for 141 yards and convert seven of 12 third-down plays. Baltimore trails AFC North-leader Cincinnati by two games, and Harbaugh is running out of patience.
“We’ll do whatever it takes,” he said. “We’ll trade guys, we’ll cut guys, we’ll sign guys, we’ll coach guys, we’ll change schemes. It doesn’t matter. We have to find a way to get better. That’s the business we’re in. We’ve got the men for the job. I like our guys. But that’s what we’ve got to work on, continue to work on. This week’s a chance to really focus on that.”
The roster shuffle began Monday when the Ravens traded left tackle Bryant McKinnie to the Miami Dolphins for a conditional draft pick. McKinnie played a key role in Baltimore’s playoff run last season, but he wasn’t nearly as effective this season and lost his starting job two weeks ago.
Baltimore’s problems transcend a shaky offensive line. With the exception of the season-opening blowout loss in Denver, the Ravens have been keeping it close. But they lost to Buffalo 23-20, Green Bay 19-17 and then to Pittsburgh on a field goal as time expired.
During their Super Bowl season, the Ravens won seven games by three points or fewer, including a pair in the postseason. What makes this season particularly frustrating is that Cincinnati is 4-1 this year in games decided by seven points or fewer.
“The team that is No. 1 in our division has won some really tough games, some close games, late-game field goals and things like that,” Harbaugh noted. “That’s really been the difference. It’s always been the difference in this league. We just got to find a way to win those games — not just find a way to win them, find a way to be good in them.”
That’s on the to-do list during bye week.
“It happens at a perfect time for us to address everything,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We can’t kid ourselves anymore. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re used to things going a little different for us, but that being said, we’ve got to be able to adjust on the fly and play football.”
Harbaugh said, “It’s going to be an opportunity to improve, certainly. We’ve tried to use it every year that way. We can use a chance to heal. That will be important for us, get our legs back a little bit. That will be a plus. Look at ourselves schematically. We’ll continue to that.”
If the Ravens can get Ray Rice running again, that would help solidify an attack that has relied too heavily on the pass. Rice showed signs of promise against Pittsburgh, gaining 45 yards on 15 carries, but at this point it’s difficult to say just what this offense does best.
“We all have something we need to do better,” Rice said. “We have a good bunch of guys, but this is the time of year where we have to create our identity. We have to find out who we are as a football team. We’ll find out during this bye week.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)