A day after his team gave up the most points and suffered the largest margin of defeat in his five seasons as Ravens' head coach, John Harbaugh took accountability for Sunday's 44-13 loss to the Houston Texans and vowed to consider changes with his inconsistent offense.
"As far as responsibility for that game, it's on me," Harbaugh said. "We were not in position to win that game. We didn't put our players in great position to win that game. We weren't ready to handle their scheme, their intensity, the crowd. All the things that we were up against in that game, we did not do a good job of and I take full responsibility for that. That's where that's at."
Limping into their bye week with a 5-2 record and in first place in the AFC North, the Ravens won't play again until Nov.4 on the road against the Cleveland Browns. Harbaugh, who will have the Ravens practice on Tuesday and then give his players the rest of the week off, will use the time to contemplate how to move forward with a banged-up defense and an offense that thrives at M&T Bank Stadium, but has wilted in three games this season on the road.
At Reliant Stadium in a matchup between the only two winning teams in the AFC coming in, all the Ravens' flaws rose to the surface. They were out-gained 420-176, lost the time of possession battle 38:16 to 21:44 and gave up 29 consecutive points to close the first half.
Along with watching the game film multiple times, Harbaugh spent much of the day in separate meetings with players and coaches, trying to figure out the cause of the Ravens' problems and what the staff can do to correct them. Direct and thoughtful, Harbaugh acknowledged that could mean everything from getting Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice the ball more to deviating from the no-huddle offense on the road to making changes along the offensive line.
"We have everything we need. We have all the players we need and we have all the scheme we need. Now what we have to do is organize it in a way that gives our players the chance to play their fastest and their best under pressure and on the road against good teams, and at home," Harbaugh said. "Let's get in the laboratory for three days here as coaches and let's figure out what we feel like we can do the best in that game and for the next nine games to go out there and give our guys the chance to play the best that they can play."
While the defense has been vulnerable all season and was so again Sunday without linebacker Ray Lewis (torn right triceps ) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in left knee), the Ravens' offense is completely unpredictable one week to the next depending on where the game is played.
In four home victories this season, the Ravens have totaled 129 points (32 per game) and averaged 422 total yards per game, and turned the ball over just twice. While going 1-2 in three road games, the Ravens have scored 45 total points (15 per game) and averaged 266 yards per game while committing six turnovers.
"We're probably in the process of determining exactly what we're going to be able to do on the road in a tough environment against a really, really good team [and] a really good front," Harbaugh said. "How we are going to have to balance out run and pass? How we are going to balance out the up-tempo, no-huddle, the communication, the check-with-me's at the line? What's realistic for us to accomplish and what's the best way to go win a football game? When you push the envelope like we're pushing it a little bit, sometimes it pushes back. To me, that's part of the growth process. You try to do that as much as you can by winning games and figuring that stuff out, and we did it this game obviously by not performing well at all. I'd like to think we learned a lot."
Quarterback Joe Flacco's struggles on the road have been especially pronounced. He's completed 50 percent of his passes for 566 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions on the road, compared to 67.1 percent of his passes for 1,271 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions at home.
Flacco didn't have an explanation for it following Sunday's loss, and several of his teammates offered little more than a shrug when asked about the offense's production at home compared to on the road. However, Harbaugh defended Flacco on Monday, saying, "We all take responsibility. Every one of us has done good things, every one of us has done not so good things, and it goes for Joe, too. We've all got to be better on the road. That's something that we're not happy with right now."
Asked if he and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron could abandon the no-huddle offense in favor of a slower, more grind-it-out approach to take some pressure off the Ravens' defense, Harbaugh said, "That's something we probably have to look at and kind of get a grip on. … How we use the tools that we have to make all those things work is kind of what we have to come to grips with and that's something I have to make some good decisions about."
Harbaugh acknowledged that the Ravens weren't "patient" enough with the run game Sunday as Rice, one of the NFL's leaders in all-purpose yards, got only nine carries for 42 yards and his backup, rookie Bernard Pierce, didn't touch the ball at all. Vonta Leach was also on the field for only 14 of the Ravens' 59 offensive plays, not enough for Harbaugh who wants to get the Pro Bowl fullback on the field more.
Flacco was also under siege for much of Sunday's game and was sacked for a safety and had two batted balls resulting in interceptions, including one returned 52 yards for a touchdown by Johnathan Joseph. Flacco has been sacked 18 times this season, and only three quarterbacks have been taken down more. That could lead to some tinkering with the offensive line, Harbaugh said.
"We're not benching guys and putting other guys in there and all that kind of stuff. To me, that wouldn't be a fair description of what we're doing. We're just trying to find a good mix," he said. "I would guess that we're going to roll some guys in there and see how they do. Let's take a look at some young guys and see how they do. Let's keep the veterans available and let them play a little bit. Yes, we'd like to have five guys who are rock solid who are in there to work with everybody all the time. But it's not where we're at right now."