Five Things We Learned from the Ravens' 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans
Sun reporter/blogger Matt Vensel analyzes Baltimore's loss to Houston.
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5( Getty Images / October 21, 2012 )
If the Ravens want to win the Super Bowl this year, they are either going to have to get a first-round bye or pull a complete 180 when it comes to their play on the road.
As Ed Reed walked off the field after the most lopsided loss in John Harbaugh's tenure as coach, the free safety, who is sometimes prone to off-the-wall comments, perfectly summed up the most frustrating aspect of his team. "We can't be two different teams at home and on the road," Reed told a Comcast reporter before ducking down the tunnel. But they are, and they have been the past two years.
Their struggles away from M&T Bank Stadium, where they haven't lost a football game since the 2010 season, have become so predictable that road games are like the movie "Groundhog Day," except Bill Murray isn't around to provide comic relief. The offense gets off to a slow start (in their past 12 road games, the Ravens have scored 46 first-quarter points). The defense starts to get fatigued in a hurry (the Ravens had five three-and-outs in the first half). The Ravens forget about running back Ray Rice (he had a season-low nine carries). And quarterback Joe Flacco eventually comes unglued (he averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt on his 43 throws). The scoreboard usually doesn't reflect how poorly they performed, but whether they win or lose, the mood at the team's facility the next day is always equally as gloomy.
"I'm concerned about everything," Harbaugh said after Sunday's 43-13 loss. "You can talk about pretty much everything today. What aren't you concerned about? The good thing and the thing we talked about is that it's the NFL. It's one loss. ... We've got to coach better and we've got to play better to accomplish what we want to accomplish. It's a good time to have a bye week to work those things out."
It's crazy to think that after the Ravens won four road playoff games from 2008 to 2010, they are a team that, if things don't change soon, probably won't be able to string together a couple of road wins in the playoffs. They would need to play at least one postseason game at M&T Bank Stadium if they want to make it to the Super Bowl. And with Sunday's ugly loss, they failed to secure the inside track to New Orleans. They can't even feel good about the 30-point loss counting as only one loss because it was a critical one for a Ravens team that doesn't want to come anywhere near a stewardess or a baggage claim once the playoffs roll around. The Ravens now trail the AFC-leading Houston Texans by a game in the standings, and Sunday's win gives the Texans the tiebreaker, if necessary. But the Ravens are still in good shape in the AFC North, and they are still ahead of the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos in the race for the second of two first-round byes. The fact that the playoffs are three months away could be a good thing or a bad thing for the Ravens. There is still plenty of time for one of their AFC North rivals to overtake them or for the Ravens to lose their grip on one of those byes. But they also have time -- and five more road games -- to figure out why they are such a completely different team on the road. Losses on the road are to be expected, but your identity is not supposed to radically change.