One day after the Ravens suffered one of the three most lopsided losses in team history, coach John Harbaugh didn’t do too much Monday quarterbacking about how the players could’ve done this better or that better at Houston.
He pointed the finger right at himself for a 43-13 loss that sent Baltimore into the bye week with a 5-2 record and out of a tie for the conference lead.
“It’s on me,” Harbaugh said. “We were not in position to win that game. We didn’t put our players in great position to win the game. We obviously weren’t ready to handle their scheme, their intensity, the crowd. All the things we were up against in that game we did not do a good job with, I take full responsibility for that.
“We’ve got nine games left, we’re leading our division. It’s going to be on our shoulders. It’s going to be our opportunity to see what we can do with those nine games and we’re going to attack those things with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, to quote a great coach.
“So in the meantime, this week’s going to be good for us. ... After tomorrow, we’ll get our guys out of here. We need to rest, we need the recovery, we’re going to heal up a little bit. The bye week comes at a great time for us. It’s right about midseason, so that’s a big plus for us and we’re going to take advantage of it.”
Although Harbaugh expressed the bye comes at a good time for the team to rest guys up and take a break, he also said he feels the opposite because of how Sunday unfolded.
“When you have a game like that, you want to get back in there as fast as you can,” he said. “You want to play. You want to kind of correct it and make it right right away. We don’t really have a chance to do that, so that’s what’s going to be tough. We’re going to have to read about it, we’re going to have to hear about it, we’re going to have to think about it. It’s a difficult thing.
“It’s hard, but it’s OK, because I think that’s the kind of stuff that makes you better. You can’t achieve anything without going through some adversity. Nothing great is going to be achieved without adversity. So the opportunity presents itself. It’s an opportunity to get better, to become whatever it is we’re going to become.”
But just how did Harbaugh feel he put his offense in bad positions? The 176 total yards, poor time of possession, two turnovers and 13 points all indicated that might’ve been the case. But exactly how did Harbaugh feel the offense was unprepared?
“Handling that front, handling the environment. Those are things that are going to be difficult and challenging,” he said, “We’re probably in the process of kind of determining exactly what we’re going to be able to do on the road in a tough environment against a really, really good team, a really good front, maybe the best front in football.
“How we’re going to balance the run and pass, how we’re going to have to balance the up-tempo no-huddle, the communication, the check-with-me’s at the line. What’s realistic for us to be able to accomplish and what’s the best way to go win a football game? So when you push the envelope the way we’re pushing it a little bit, sometimes it pushes back. ... I’d like to think we learned a lot.”
Harbaugh also created a potential stir by questioning the fact that the team strayed from Ray Rice and the running game early in the contest.
“I think we could’ve stayed with the run a little more patiently,” he said. “Once they got the tipped-ball interception, we felt like we needed to try to get back in that thing a little more quickly because of the type of team they are. But we felt, we all said we could’ve been more patient with the run, whether it’s Ray Rice or Bernard Pierce or whoever it is. We want to get the ball to all of our playmakers’ hands and we probably didn’t do that as well as we wanted to.”
The Ravens have been a different team on the road from the one which is 4-0 at home. Baltimore is 1-2 away from M&T Bank Stadium with its one road win - 9-6 over Kansas City - being a game the team could’ve easily lost.
Joe Flacco has especially pronounced home/road splits. He has completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 1,271 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in Baltimore. Out of town, he has converted just 50 percent of his attempts for 566 yards, two touchdowns and four picks.
Harbaugh made sure not to blame the quarterback for the road woes, however.
“The results for all of us have been different. We’re all part of that,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something I think we all have to deal with. You never put it on one guy. We all take responsibility. Every one of us have done good things and every one us have done not-so-good things and that goes for Joe, too. We’ve all got to be better on the road. That’s something that we’re not happy with right now.”
There’s not much warm and fuzzy to take from the loss. But the Ravens escaped with no major injuries even though there were a few scares when offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, safety Ed Reed and defensive lineman Haloti Ngata all went down at different points. All three practiced Monday, providing the team with reason to be relieved.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs also returned, and made a massive contribution less than six months after suffering a torn Achilles tendon. He recorded a sack and deflected a pass in playing more than half the snaps.
“I guess I thought Terrell Suggs was going to be Terrell Suggs whenever he came back,” Harbaugh said. “I didn’t know that he’d be able to play that many snaps in all honesty. For him to be able to play 44 snaps is really something. I don’t know if that’s ever been accomplished, to come back from an Achilles tear at that stage of the offseason and come back this quickly and to play the way he played is probably unprecedented. I think the credit goes to him and it goes to our training staff for what they accomplished. It’s pretty remarkable.”
So now the Ravens head into the bye still in good position to contend despite the injuries and struggles defensively. Harbaugh is confident Baltimore needs no major fixes to return a much-improved team on Nov. 4.
“We have everything we need. We have all the players we need and we have all the scheme we need,” he said. “Now what we have to do is organize it in a way that gives our players a chance to play their fastest and their best under pressure, on the road, against good teams and at home.
“We’re going to have to go play Cleveland on the road in a division game. We’ve always had tough games in Cleveland. That’s going to be a critically important (game), it’s a must-win game for us. So let’s get in the laboratory for three days here as coaches and let’s figure out the things that we feel like we can do the best in that game and then for the next nine games to give our guys a chance to play the best they can play.”
Note: Harbaugh said linebacker Sergio Kindle, the Ravens’ top pick in 2010, took it pretty well when the team cut him Saturday.
“He was good about it actually. He understands,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s really determined to be a good football player in this league.”
The Ravens have signed Kindle to the practice squad.
“We still think he’s got a chance,” Harbaugh said. “We really think there’s a possibility that he can grow into a player because we’ve seen some glimpses of it in practice.”