If Home Ravens were to face Road Ravens, it wouldn’t be much of a fight.
The home version is feared. It possesses a high-flying offense that can beat teams in multiple ways and does so quickly while the defense teases opponents by letting them move the ball - before taking it away or preventing the visitors from reaching the end zone.
The road version is just the opposite. The offense is inconsistent and more prone to a three-and-out than a big play through the air. The defense is more doormat than wall when it comes to crossing the goal line.
And that’s why the Ravens are 4-0 at M&T Bank Stadium and 1-2 away from Baltimore heading into Sunday’s game at the Cleveland Browns.
Most times, players and coaches might shrug off questions about the difference between playing at home and on the road. But in this case, the splits are so wide, especially after the Ravens’ 43-13 loss at Houston heading into the bye, that coach John Harbaugh and his players have to give the talk more credence.
At home, Baltimore is averaging 32.3 points for, 22 points against, 421.8 yards for and 389 yards against.
On the road, the Ravens are averaging 15 points for, 24.3 points against, 266.3 yards for and 414.7 yards against.
This week, Harbaugh was asked whether the team was sick of hearing about the issues away from M&T Bank Stadium this season.
“What’s to be sick about? It’s a factor,” he said. “We’ve got to play better on the road. We know that. We’re going to hear about it until we do better. So, it’s doesn’t really matter if we’re sick of it or not, we just have to do better.”
The Ravens’ most glaring dropoff on the road has been offensively, and maybe there’s a good reason for it. Operating a no-huddle attack, the unit relies on communication, both verbal and non-verbal.
At home, the fans are quieter and more supportive when the Ravens have the ball, making communication easier. Away, 70,000-plus fans pack stadiums with the goal of making it so quarterback Joe Flacco has difficulty getting his offense together.
“It’s definitely harder to do the no-huddle on the road, because you have to factor in the other team’s crowd, and Joe has to communicate to a lot of people,” tailback Ray Rice said. “We try to come up with little different things - little different signals - but we all have to be on the same page. I think the second half of the year, the best thing we have to do is all be on the same page, and let Joe drive this thing, let the coaches call the plays, and we’ll go out there and execute at a high level.”
Flacco acknowledged that remains a concern for the squad as it prepared for its fourth road game of the season.
“We definitely look at it. Communication is definitely more of an issue when you’re playing on the road - when you’re playing on the road and it’s a game where you’re playing against good teams where they’re in the game for a while,” he said. “There’s ways that we just have to go about communicating better when we have to, and at times, limiting some of that, so we can let our guys go play.”
If there’s any remedy for the Ravens’ road struggles, it might be the 2-6 Browns.
Baltimore has won its last 10 games against AFC North opponents for the NFL’s longest winning streak against divisional opponents, and the team is 9-0 versus the Browns since 2008, when Harbaugh and Flacco arrived. The Ravens have won by at least 10 points in all four trips to Cleveland during that time.
“We come in here, we prepare every week. When it comes down to Sundays, we’ve been able to go out there and play pretty well,” Flacco said. “I think if you go back and actually individually look at most of the games, it’s kind of crazy that we haven’t lost, because there have been a lot of close ones.
“Even all the way back to my rookie year, they were beating us up there and we came back. There have been a lot of games that have come down to the wire - including the last one we played against them.”
He has a point, as three of the teams’ last five meetings have been decided by seven points or less. But the Ravens have still been able to pull out the close ones against the Browns and hope to do so again Sunday.
Cleveland is riding a bit of a high, coming off a 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers, and has two wins in three games since an 0-5 start. But the Ravens had won four in a row before being thrashed by Houston and hope the bye helped them get back on track.