As the Ravens returned to Owings Mills on Monday following their week-long vacation, head coach John Harbaugh sat his players down for a team meeting.
Harbaugh’s message was simple, yet one which isn’t always verbalized by a coach. He wanted his players to know exactly what type of team the 2011 Ravens are going to be.
Even after a 3-1 start to the regular season and with the team holding sole possession of first place in the AFC North, Harbaugh felt that discussion was an important one to have. As a whole, the coach said, the team should have a vision of what its mentality will be.
Harbaugh rhetorically asked his team a few questions: “Who are the Ravens? What are we going to be about? What do we stand for? How are we going to play?”
And what was Harbaugh’s answer?
“I think first and foremost, we’re going to attack people,” he later told reporters. “And what does that mean? It means you attack people running the ball, you attack people throwing short, intermediate and deep. You attack people in pass protection, you attack people by putting everybody out. You’ve got to be able to do everything in the National Football League, so that you don’t become one-dimensional and they can’t take away something and leave you with nothing. And that’s what we’re searching for.”
That mentality has certainly been evident through the first quarter of the season.
Gone are the days when the Ravens would rush just three defenders a dozen times a game, allowing quarterbacks time to survey the field on third-and-long. The Ravens have brought the pressure time after time this season, wreaking havoc up front, throwing opposing signal callers into the turf and making their time in the pocket uncomfortable and, often times, painful.
Chuck Pagano’s defense has already recorded 11 sacks on the season, forced 14 turnovers and returned four of those takeaways for touchdowns. They’re battering quarterbacks late in games, making it even tougher on their opponents to fall behind early and lean toward a one-dimensional passing attack in the second half.
Gone (at least seemingly) are the days of passive offensive game plans and relying on the defense to earn wins. The Ravens are no longer slow to get into an offensive rhythm, as they’ve come out of the tunnel firing and looking to rack up points immediately. Baltimore has outscored its opponents 52-7 in the first quarter this season, and they’re stretching the defense vertically by taking more “shot” plays deep down the field than any time in recent memory.
This aggressive mentality has its negatives, as well. The Ravens have been accused more than once of running up the score on the competition, and Harbaugh has been criticized for leaving Joe Flacco in the game in the fourth quarter during blowouts, risking an injury to the team’s starting quarterback in the process.
But overall, the aggressive approach has been a success thus far this season. It’s paying off in the win column, and as you might imagine, Harbaugh is getting a favorable reaction to the go-for-the-throat mentality from his players.
“I think they love it,” Harbaugh said. “I think that’s who they are, and that’s who they want to be. We want to attack people in every way we can - offense, defense, special teams, down the field, at the point of attack, in all three phases. That’s what we’re about. That’s the way we’re going to try to play every week.”