Following a disappointing Week 1 loss where the Ravens allowed more yards and points than anyone else in the league, they just might have the perfect remedy Sunday.
The Ravens open their home slate with a visit from their own version of the Washington Generals - the Cleveland Browns.
Baltimore hasn’t lost to Cleveland since Nov. 18, 2007, winning 10 straight games to match Denver for the NFL’s longest active streak against a single team. The Broncos’ 10 straight victories are also against the Browns.
Quarterback Joe Flacco is a perfect 10-0 against the Browns in his career, matching former Broncos quarterback John Elway for most wins against a single opponent without a loss since the 1970 NFL merger.
“You don’t look at it before we had beaten them and say, ‘We’re going to go win 10 straight,’ ” Flacco told reporters. “These guys are a good football team. They have a physical defense, and they’ve always had that since I’ve been here. We’ve played a lot of games that I feel like have been decided late. You kind of have to stay locked in if you know what kind of game you’re ready for. Every game we play in this division is like that. These guys are no exception. I think that we believe they’re a good football team, which they are, and we’re just ready to go play another game.”
And much of the attention will be on whether the Ravens defense can rebound from a start which resulted in being the butt end of national punchlines.
In the 49-27 loss to the Broncos, the Ravens allowed more points and passing touchdowns than they ever have. Peyton Manning tied an NFL record by throwing for seven scores. Baltimore was torched for 510 yards, 445 of which came via the pass.
In meeting with the media this week, defensive coordinator Dean Pees was honest in his assessment of a unit that needs to perform better.
“When you look at a game and you give up 49 points and 500 yards, it’s just really, really disappointing,” Pees said. “I’m not a stat guy, but I’m not an idiot either. I don’t want to say that it doesn’t matter. It does matter. The bottom line is winning, but to say that, to kind of blow off that you don’t really care what the stats are, that’s not really true either.
“We want to be a top-10 defense. That’s what we want to be. And we still can be - that’s the great thing. The thing about this game, though, was when you watched 61 plays against Denver and Peyton Manning and a really good, talented offensive football team, we gave up 200 yards of offense on those 61 plays. Now, 61 plays sometimes can be a normal football game. And if you ever said you did that against a Denver Bronco team with Peyton Manning, you would be just ecstatic. But it wasn’t that. You can’t neglect the nine plays for 300 yards.
“So you can’t just ignore it and say, ‘We had a good game, but we had these nine plays.’ Those nine plays, you had them. It’s our job as a coaching staff to sit down and evaluate all plays - why the ones worked, but also more why the other ones didn’t work, and is there anything we can do schematically to help those guys. Is it a technique thing? Is there anything we can do better to coach those guys in the technique? Is it a personnel problem? It’s our situation to solve those.”
Pees went on to explain that the corrections for those nine plays jumped off the screen. He said most were missed tackles and one was a miscommunication.
He was pleased that there weren’t a number of missed assignments and he didn’t think the secondary played as badly as the numbers indicated.
“I’m disappointed in the statistics, which look terrible. I’m not disappointed in the total defensive effort that we gave,” Pees said. “I’m disappointed in nine plays; that’s what it is. So it’s been a hard week. It isn’t one where you can just go in and start chastising and get everybody and be ranting and raving and be crazy. At the same time, you can’t sit there and go, ‘Well, it’s OK,’ because it’s not. It’s kind of that in-between. That’s as honest an answer as I can possible give you.”
Linebacker Terrell Suggs expects to see marked improvement this week.
“We’re professionals, so I’m expecting it to be a lot better,” he told reporters. “It’s something that needs to be addressed, and we’re addressing it.”
One reason to be encouraged was the return of cornerback Lardarius Webb, who had a tackle and performed well in coverage, adding one pass defense.
“He looked good,” coach John Harbaugh said. “His knee looked good. I didn’t see any issues with it. I really feel like, physically, he is only going to get better as he goes forward.”
The offense was far from blameless in the loss. Flacco passed for 362 yards and two touchdowns, but did so on 62 attempts - for an unimpressive 5.8 yard average - and was picked off twice.
The running game never got going, either, as Baltimore rushed for just 58 yards, including 36 from star tailback Ray Rice.
“We do have to run the ball better,” Rice told reporters. “That’s something that I know we can get corrected, with the guys we have in front of us, our offensive line, having Marshal (Yanda), having (Kelechi Osemele), having the jell that we have. Running the football is something that is a man-on-man thing. Those guys will get it corrected.
“It’s a hat on a hat, different things that we work on, and we’ll get it corrected. Running the ball is something we’ve always been able to do around here, and I don’t see that stopping right now. We’ve gotten better in the past, but running the ball is something that we’ll get better at.”
And now the Ravens get to take their field for their home opener looking to even their record at 1-1 after a rough start on the road.
“Our guys love playing here. We can’t wait to see our fans out here,” Harbaugh said. “We just need to play up to the level that M&T Bank and our fans deserve, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”