The snow in Baltimore last week. The tornadoes in Chicago on Nov. 17. The lightning Denver on opening night.
When it comes to weather, the Ravens have seen it all. So no one around the Under Armour Performance Center is complaining about the fact that they won’t have to worry about the elements Monday night in Detroit.
The Ravens get a respite from the cold and strange conditions when they play under the dome at Ford Field. (But it’s worth reminding everyone that the team did experience a blackout the last time it played indoors, at the Superdome in New Orleans in February’s Super Bowl.)
“I’m actually thrilled about it, I’m not going to lie,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “Being inside on the fast turf, no weather - it’s going to be perfect for both teams, so both teams should be at their best. ...
“Inside, it’s perfect weather. There’s no excuse. I honestly kind of like the fact that we get to play in the elements, because you get to see what other teams are really made of that are indoors all the time.”
Quarterback Joe Flacco is also looking forward to it.
“I never make a big deal about playing outside, but every time you go into a dome and you start warming up, you realize how awesome it is to be able to throw the ball inside,” he said. “It won’t have too much of an effect on the outcome of the game. As a quarterback, you always want great conditions, and a dome obviously presents that, but we’re still going to have to go play fundamental football and take care of business.”
The Lions are used to playing on the turf field indoors while the Ravens are not. Plus, Baltimore has struggled mightily on the road this year - something the team will need to change down the stretch with two of its last three games away from M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens are 6-1 at home, but 1-5 on the road.
“We’ve won the close games at home, and we haven’t won them on the road. That’s the bottom line,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ve done the things we needed to do to win tight games at home, and we haven’t done the things we needed to do on the road. It’s us - it’s what we’ve done - the plays we’ve made or haven’t made that have been the difference.”
In Baltimore, the Ravens are 4-1 in games decided by eight points or fewer. They’re 1-4 in such contests on the road.
At 7-6, the Ravens are in a different spot than they were a year ago when starting 9-2 before skidding to the finish. This year, they need to win just to make the playoffs, and that includes Monday at Detroit.
The Ravens currently hold the AFC’s second wild card with three weeks to go. But the Dolphins are also 7-6 with two games against sub-.500 teams in their last three. Baltimore plays three division-leading clubs to finish the regular season.
“The mentality’s different because we have to win. We have no other option. It’s, at this point, win or go home for us,” tight end Dennis Pitta said. “So we have to treat every game like it’s a postseason game because we don’t have any more opportunities. Last year, I think we got out to a great start and we let ourselves relax a little bit and had a three-game slide, and then refocused and really got hot for a playoff run. So this year, the mentality is different because we lost some tough games early on and some close ones, and now we have to be able to put it together to get in the postseason.”
Lately, that desperation has brought out the best in the Ravens, who have won three straight and four of five.
“I think you find out a lot about your team and yourself when your back’s against the wall a little bit, and this team continues to respond in difficult situations,” Pitta said. “We know that we play good football in December. That’s what we’re built to do and that’s what we have to continue to do if we want to have success this year.”
To keep that going, the Ravens will have to overcome the hostile environment of a noisy dome instead of unique weather.
“It’s going to be a big challenge. I don’t think indoor-outdoor means much for us; it won’t matter,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve been in weather. I don’t think we’ve been in a dome yet, that I recall. The crowd noise is going to be a factor. It’s Monday Night Football, it’s going to be loud, it’s a hugely important game for both teams, it’s a great place to play, and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.
“It literally is going to be the Lions’ den. It’s their den, and they’re very good at home, so it’s going to be tough. We’ve got to be ready. We’ve got to be at our best. We’ll have to play the best we’ve played all year.”