OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — One week after ringing up 38 points in the first half at Tampa Bay, the Baltimore Ravens took a shutout deep into the fourth quarter against Atlanta.
Offense, defense, special teams — at this point, it appears as if the first-place Ravens can rely on any of those units to win.
Baltimore (5-2) ranks second in the AFC in scoring, averaging 28 points a game, and has allowed fewer points than any NFL team. Not only that, but Justin Tucker is 14 for 14 on field goal tries inside 50 yards and punter Sam Koch has 10 kicks inside the 20 compared to just two touchbacks.
Not too long ago, the Ravens’ identity clearly was defense. Now, it’s a tough call.
“We’re not going to say we want to be one thing or the other. We want to be everything,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “We want to be whatever we need to be to win the next game. And you never [know] what’s that going to be. Could be offense, could be defense, could be special teams.”
Baltimore’s next game is a big one: at Cincinnati (3-2-1) on Sunday with first place in the AFC North on the line.
The Ravens have won four of five since losing at home to the Bengals in the season opener. Should Baltimore drops this one, Cincinnati will own the first tie-breaker if the teams finish tied atop the division.
“It’s not the last game of the season. It doesn’t have that kind of drama to it, but it is important,” Harbaugh said. “You are in your division, you’re playing a team on the road, a team that’s beaten us once at home already.”
The Ravens, however, look to be improved from that early-September clash.
“I would hope we are. We better be,” Harbaugh said. “We’re seven weeks later down the road.”
Over the past two weeks, Baltimore has outscored the opposition 77-24. Granted, the Buccaneers and Falcons are both struggling, but before that the Ravens beat Carolina 38-10 and Pittsburgh 26-6.
There was also a 20-13 loss at Indianapolis, but that compares favorably to Cincinnati’s 27-0 defeat on the road against the Colts on Sunday.
Although it’s early in the week, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis evidently has already seen the tape of Baltimore’s 29-7 rout of Atlanta. In that game, Joe Flacco threw for 258 yards and two scores, Justin Forsett ran for 95 yards and nine different players had at least one reception.
On defense, Elvis Dumervil and Pernell McPhee had two sacks each, Terrell Suggs collared quarterback Matt Ryan for a safety and tackle Haloti Ngata anchored a line that limited the Falcons to 68 yards rushing.
“Baltimore is playing very well right now,” Lewis said. “They’re doing a good job both running the ball and throwing the ball, and obviously they’re playing good on defense, being very explosive. McPhee’s playing his tail off, and Suggs and Dumervil and Ngata, they’ve got the guys rolling up front. It’s a big football game for us.”
Not everything went well for the Ravens on Sunday. Long snapper Morgan Cox tore his ACL and will be lost for the season.
To fill the void, Baltimore signed Kevin McDermott, who played with the San Francisco 49ers last season. McDermott beat out Patrick Scales.
“He’s a guy that we are very familiar with,” Harbaugh said. “Patrick is a guy who was with us in training camp twice who we’ve got a lot of respect for as well. Both of those guys had excellent workouts and we feel like either one of those guys would fit us really well. We just chose to go to Kevin.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)