Ravens aim for road improvement in Chicago

Maybe there’s another explanation for the Ravens’ losing ways before last week’s win over the Bengals.

Playing at home can’t be understated in the NFL, especially when the Ravens are concerned. During Baltimore’s three-game skid and stretch of four losses in five contests, the team played on the road four times.

The Ravens (4-5) are 1-4 away and 3-1 at home this season, as they head back on the road this week, looking to take down the Chicago Bears.

That lack of road success is a bit more pronounced than in the past, but the troubles away from Baltimore are nothing new to the team. In six seasons under coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 36-8 at home and 22-23 on the road.

The road numbers may not be desirable, but that doesn’t mean playing away is something the players don’t relish.

“I think the craziest part is that we all love it. We all love being hated,” linebacker Jameel McClain said. “The road, it’s a special type of game, to me. You get the opportunity to feed off the energy of the stands - in a negative manner. A lot of guys thrive off of that. We all know one of the most notorious people in the league is Terrell (Suggs). He thrives off of the opponent’s energy. We are looking forward to it.”

Said Suggs: “Some people don’t enjoy being a villain, and it kind of affects their play. So I had to learn at a very young age that the (opposing) team and their fans aren’t going to like you, they’re not going to cheer for you, and they’re going to say the most personal things about you. You can either let it bother you, or you can embrace it and use it. We all just kind of embrace it around here.”

That hasn’t translated into wins, but the Ravens could sure use one this week.

Baltimore’s offense might have an opportunity going up against a Bears defense that has allowed 27.4 points (27th in the NFL), 379.2 total yards (26th) and 129.4 rushing yards (31st) per game this season. Chicago is 5-4 in spite of a defense that has been beaten down by injuries.

The Bears are playing without defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins, defensive end Turk McBride, cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Kelvin Hayden, and linebackers Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams.

However, the Ravens offense isn’t thinking it can walk over the Bears.

“We’ve just to go in and do our thing and play good football, and just get after them,” guard Marshal Yanda said. “No matter who they have out there, you know it’s still going to be NFL-caliber players and just because they’re not ranked in certain areas, you can’t say, ‘Oh, we’re going to go in there and beat up on them.’ We’re going to have to go in there and play sound fundamental football and be physical and just do all the good things you need to be successful.”

Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said it’s still a dangerous defense despite the numbers.

“One of the things that you notice right away is that they’re very, very sound in what they do,” Caldwell said. “They can give you a little bit of everything in terms of a package they present. They create a lot of havoc, they do a great job creating turnovers. They’re up there in the top of the league in terms of caused fumbles - I think they have 17 of them at this point. They’re very opportunistic.

“When they get the ball in their hand from one of those turnovers, they know what to do with it. They do a great job of just rallying to the football - sometimes the numbers don’t indicate that. You’ll look at some numbers and say, ‘Hey, this looks mediocre,’ or whatever it might be. The total sum of things, it’s a tough, hard-nosed and rugged defense that’s extremely well-coached.”

With the Bears at the bottom of the league when it comes to stopping the run, the Ravens hope this could be the week they can get their woeful ground game going.

Baltimore ranks 30th in the NFL with 73.1 rushing yards per game.

“We’ve been working really hard at improving in that area. It’s important for us to be a lot better than we have been. No time like the present,” coach John Harbaugh said.

The Ravens will have to chase the black cloud that seems to follow them on the road to make that happen. And they’ll also be looking to upset a pretty famous sports fan.

Five months after going to the White House to be honored by President Barack Obama for winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens will be looking to take down his favorite team.

“We appreciate the president and the fact that he’s a huge football fan and sports fan,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure he’ll be watching this game very closely, and we’ll do our best to disappoint him.”