A day after Terrell Suggs, Ravens coach John Harbaugh's most vocal leader and one of his top players, declared that the Ravens were in a "state of emergency," Harbaugh painted a little more optimistic picture of his struggling team.
However, Harbaugh did reveal the sense of urgency that has now enveloped the Ravens as they near the midpoint of the season.
"We'll do whatever it takes," Harbaugh said. "We'll trade guys, we'll cut guys, we'll sign guys, we'll coach guys, we'll change schemes. It doesn't matter. We have to find a way to get better. That's the business we're in. We've got the men for the job. I like our guys but that's what we've got to continue to work on. This week's a chance to really focus on that."
The Ravens entered their bye week in unfamiliar territory under Harbaugh. They are 3-4, the latest that they've had a losing record in Harbaugh's six seasons at the helm. They are also two games behind the first-place Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.
"We put ourselves here," fullback Vonta Leach said. "Now we're the team that's going to get ourselves out of it."
Sunday's 19-16 loss to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field — the Ravens third defeat in the last four games — prompted Suggs to say that the reigning Super Bowl champions "can't kid ourselves anymore" and need to "address everything."
Harbaugh said that he wasn't aware of Suggs' comments, but he wasn't bothered after hearing them, saying, 'If that is how Terrell sees it, then that's good. A sense of urgency is a good thing."
The Ravens will practice on Tuesday and Wednesday before Harbaugh gives them the required four days off per the collective bargaining agreement, and players head their separate ways for a much-needed break. The Ravens don't play again until Nov. 3 versus the Cleveland Browns, so they'll have plenty of time to be introspective and juggle the roster as team officials see fit.
That started Monday with the trade of demoted veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie to the Miami Dolphins for a conditional late-round draft pick. Harbaugh hinted that there will be more changes on the way, including some potential moves to upgrade their kick coverage teams which let them down in the Steelers' loss.
While Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham delivered the knockout punch to the Ravens with a 42-yard field goal as time expired, Pittsburgh's game-winning drive started with a 44-yard kickoff return by Emmanuel Sanders. On the play, the Ravens lost containment on the outside as Michael Huff, Albert McClellan and Jeromy Miles were all sealed off, giving Sanders a lane down the sideline. Only Sanders' right foot hitting the chalk prevented a go-ahead, 107-yard touchdown return.
The fact that the Ravens also botched an onside kick earlier in the fourth quarter only added to the ire of Harbaugh, a former special teams coach.
"We've got to play better on special teams," Harbaugh said. "We're going to find some guys out there that want to play special teams. We've got to have guys out there running down the field to knock the ball around. That's unheard of. We're not going to run a surprise onside kick and not know what we're doing. So we're going to work on that. If that means changing people out, that's what we'll do."
It's been an uneven start for the special teams group. After two early misses, kicker Justin Tucker has been flawless and Tandon Doss and Jacoby Jones have been productive in the return game. But Sam Koch has had two punts blocked, there have been a few coverage breakdowns and too many penalties.
The special teams group has mirrored the rest of the team in its inconsistency. By now, the Ravens' offensive issues have become well-documented. They have one of the least productive running games in the league and they've struggled to start fast and finish drives.
The defense carried the Ravens for the early part of the season, but it has struggled against the run in three of the past four weeks and has become reliant on Suggs and the pass rush. Against the Steelers, the defense couldn't get off the field as Pittsburgh punted just once and limited the Ravens to just seven possessions.
When Suggs talked about being concerned with the team, he made sure to mention all three units — offense, defense and special teams. Harbaugh did the same Monday, rattling off the team's myriad woes, and stating matter-of-factly, "We have a lot to improve on."
Harbaugh, however, maintained that he doesn't feel all that differently about things than when the Ravens hit the bye week last year with a 5-2 record. Of their first five wins last year, the Ravens won one of them by one point, one by two, one by three and another by a touchdown.
This year, they've lost by three points twice and two once along with the 49-27 blowout at the hands of the Denver Broncos in the season opener.
"Last year we won the close games, so we've got to get hot a little bit and win some close games," Harbaugh said. "It's going to be a long season and we have an opportunity going forward. We've just got to become a good football team."
Harbaugh insists that confidence is not an issue and quarterback Joe Flacco echoed similar sentiments following Sunday's game. But whether the Ravens are in a "state of emergency" or not, few players argued Suggs' point that there is cause for concern.
"I think his emotions are going high. No Baltimore Raven likes losing to the Steelers — it doesn't matter if we played in Heinz Field or nothing," said tight end Ed Dickson when asked Sunday about Suggs' comments. "We're with him. He's our leader. If he says it's an emergency, we're going to get it right. We're going to take this bye week, watch this tape and we're going to work on the things that we need to get done. We're in every game. We just have to find a way to get over the hump and win these games. We got to take this hurt and this pain and springboard us throughout the rest of the season."
Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this articleCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun