Here we go again

Three big wins, each of which was immediately followed by a disappointing road loss.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. In fact, I almost feel silly talking about it again. But until the Ravens can prove that they’re able to beat an inferior opponent the week after a big win, this is a topic which, unfortunately, has to be discussed.

All three of the Ravens’ defeats this season have come on the road the week after potential momentum-starting wins over top competition. Losses to the Titans, Jaguars and Seahawks have put a blemish on what has otherwise been a very strong 2011 season, and have left head coach John Harbaugh having to answer numerous questions about his team’s inconsistent play.

But heck, now that this has happened three times, and with the Ravens set to face the 4-7 Browns on the road a week after a big win over the 49ers, even Harbaugh has to admit that there’s a pattern here which needs to be stopped.

“We’ve got to turn over every stone,” Harbaugh said yesterday. “We certainly acknowledge that those three losses, coming off of big wins, against teams with sub-.500 records, were not good performances. They are team losses the way we look at it - coaches, players, all of us. They are there, they are on the record.

“Now, we face a similar challenge this week, but a tougher challenge because now we have to go play a team in our division, a team that you saw play the Bengals last week and control the game for most of the game.”

Harbaugh has consistently disputed the notion that his team hasn’t been mentally ready for each of the three games they ended up losing, and has bristled at questions suggesting that the Ravens have overlooked the “softer” teams on their schedule.

His explanation simply has been that the Ravens haven’t played well enough. But it sure appears that something more is there.

The three teams that the Ravens have lost to have a combined record of 13-22, which is a .371 winning percentage. The Ravens’ eight wins have come over teams with a combined record of 52-36 - a .590 winning percentage.

How does a team topple the strongest opponents on its schedule and then drop the games against the ones at the bottom of the standings? Is it the road factor? Unfamiliarity that comes from playing teams outside the division? Is there an issue with players suffering a (here’s that word again) letdown after a big win?

Right now, the Ravens don’t have the answers for those questions. But they do know that they need to figure out the issues plaguing them, and soon. Otherwise, the Browns will accomplish what they were nearly able to do to the Bengals on Sunday and deliver a blow to a division rival’s playoff hopes.

“We’ve got a strong division this year, just like always, so every game is critical,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “It’s good to be in the lead and it’s good to have the wins that we do, especially against our division opponents, but if we don’t handle ourselves well going down the stretch, it means nothing. So this week is going to be a huge game, it’s going to be a dogfight. Cleveland always brings it, especially when we play up there. It’s going to be a good game.

“We better bring it.”

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