Coach John Harbaugh is not happy.
He isn’t thrilled with the offense as a whole, he’s not satisfied with the run defense, he’s not pleased with the special teams and, because of all that, he doesn’t like the record one bit.
The Ravens are 3-4 for their slowest start in six seasons under Harbaugh. The team’s streak of five straight playoff appearances is far from assured of being extended as Baltimore arrives at the bye two games behind Cincinnati for first place in the AFC North.
If Harbaugh could draw up the script for the rest of the season, he hopes he’ll be able to look back and say the Ravens got their slump out of the way early.
“Well, if we flip it, we’ll be able to look at it that way. That would be good,” he said. “I’m hopeful that that’ll be the storyline at the end of the year, that we had the lost games early. That would be great. We’ll see what happens. We’ve got to make that happen right now. We’re capable of winning all these games. I feel like we should’ve won them all. But I always feel that way.
“We’ve just got to work on all the things we need to work on and we need to run the ball, we need to stop the run. We need to get turnovers, we need to not turn the ball over. We need to protect the quarterback, we need to get sacks. We need to score in the red zone, we need to continue to stop people from scoring in the red zone. We need to get big plays, we need to stop people from having big plays. So those are all the things that you’re asking about that we have to do better. Now how do you go about doing that? That’s the challenge.”
Harbaugh was most bothered Sunday by the Ravens’ mistakes on their surprise onside kick and on the kickoff return Emmanuel Sanders ran back for a touchdown that was called back because he stepped out of bounds.
That’s just one of Harbaugh’s frustrations and he’s willing to do anything it takes to get the whole thing turned around.
“We feel like we’ve got, for the most part, the guys to do the job,” he said. “Put special teams in there. We’ve got to play better on special teams. We’re going to find some guys out there that want to play special teams. We’ve got to have guys out there running down the field to knock the ball around. That’s unheard of. We’re not going to run a surprise onside kick and not know what we’re doing. So we’re going to work on that.
“If that means changing people out, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll do whatever it takes. 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. But this week’s a chance to really focus on that.”
Harbaugh pointed out that the difference between the Ravens being 3-4 this year compared to 5-2 at this point a year ago is close games. Since being blown out in the opener, Baltimore’s three losses have come by a combined eight points.
In 2012, the Ravens used a 4-1 record in games decided by seven points or less to open the year 5-1.
So after two straight losses and three in four games - all decided by three points - the bye week has arrived at a pretty good time.
“It’s going to be an opportunity to improve, certainly,” Harbaugh said. “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. We’ve been doing that, we’ll continue to do that. We have to find the things that we do best. Like I said, it’s not a lot different than it was last year at this time. We won some close games last year, we lost some close this year.
“We’ll have to win some more games in the second half this year than we did last year. That will be the key. If you look at the teams that we’re competing against, I think they won some close games. 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. That’s really been the difference. It’s always been the difference in this league. We’ve just got to find a way to win those games, but not just find a way to win them, find a way to be good in them. Find a way to do all the little things to get us in position to win. We’ll work hard on that.”
Harbaugh had no injury updates, saying the team has no serious ailments to overcome, but just bumps and bruises to heal up.
Harbaugh also said he saw the offense make a lot of progress in the loss to Pittsburgh. The Ravens scored on four of seven possessions and crossed midfield on all but the opening drive.
Baltimore ran for 82 yards, its third-highest total of the season and a significant improvement over the 47 it rushed for in a loss to the Packers a week earlier.
“I felt like we did a better job in the running game,” Harbaugh said. “We got a few more yards, a few more yards per carry maybe. It’s improving, but we have a long way to go with it.”
Harbaugh wasn’t as content with the run defense, which let the Steelers rack up a season-high 141 yards on the ground. It was the second-highest total allowed by the Ravens this season and marked the third time in four weeks that Baltimore surrendered at least 140.
“We haven’t played as good run defense,” he said. “We haven’t gotten off blocks like we need to. We haven’t tackled all the time as well as we can. We didn’t play very well (with our) run defense yesterday.”
But on one more positive note, linebacker Jameel McClain made a solid return to the field, starting in his first game since Dec. 9.
McClain finished third on the team with six tackles, including four solo takedowns.
“I thought he played a good game, given the circumstances probably played really well,” Harbaugh said. “Hadn’t played for a long time, hadn’t practiced much, thrown into a situation where he had to play quite a few snaps and really did a solid job. He’s only going to get better from here on out. Came out healthy, so that’s important. And he’ll really benefit from the next couple days of work.”