Carroll County Times

Ravens 'going to do whatever it takes' to improve during bye week

OWINGS MILLS - In the visiting locker room at Heinz Field about 30 minutes after the Ravens' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Baltimore outside linebacker Terrell Suggs declared that the Ravens have reached a "state of emergency."
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh didn't go that far Monday, but he made it clear that the Ravens recognize that changes need to be made and that the team will be aggressive in trying to improve during its bye week this week.
"We're going to 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're going to find a way to get better."
The Ravens have already made some moves the last few weeks.
They traded for Eugene Monroe earlier this month to replace Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, and they dealt McKinnie to the Miami Dolphins Monday.
They have also made adjustments to their blocking scheme and shifted to more of a spread, no huddle offense centered around their passing game on Sunday with their running game continuing to struggle.
Offensive players felt like Baltimore's offense made progress during Sunday's game versus the Steelers. But the Ravens continue to have problems running the ball. They have had issues with both their run defense and pass defense recently. And they have problems with their special teams with blocked punts and with their kick coverage team.
They are far from the only hopeful contender with glaring issues at this point, but they have lost three of their last four games and enter their bye week as the first defending Super Bowl champion since 2006 to have a losing record through their first seven games.
And at 3-4, Baltimore is two games behind the Cincinnati Bengals for first place in the AFC North.
"We've got a lot to improve on," Harbaugh said. "We're going to spend the next two days working on those things with the guys here. And then we will let them out of here Wednesday afternoon as per the rules and try to get some rest and do all the evaluations that we always do on the bye week and see what we can improve and be the best team we can be moving forward."
The running game is likely the Ravens' biggest issue.
Harbaugh said that he felt Baltimore did "a better job in the run game" versus Pittsburgh Sunday, but Ravens running backs still picked up just 68 yards on 24 carries. For the year, Baltimore is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, the lowest yards per carry in the NFL.
But the Ravens' defense that looked like one of the best in the league as recently as late September has also had problems of late, in particular the run defense.
Baltimore believed that its front seven was one of its strengths heading into the season, and the first three games provided little reason to think it wouldn't be, but the Ravens gave up 203 rushing yards to the Buffalo Bills in Week 4, 120 yards to Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy last week and 145 yards to the Steelers Sunday.
Pittsburgh averaged nearly five yards per carry as a team.
But the pass defense has had issues as well.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger attempted only 23 passes, but he completed 17 of them, including three late to put Pittsburgh in position for the game-winning field goal.
The Ravens also allowed 315 yards to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers the week before and 307 yards to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill the week before that.
But Harbaugh was particularly mad Sunday about two gaffes on special teams, and he was openly critical of both of those plays once again on Monday.
One was Baltimore's failed onside kick early in the fourth quarter. The other was Emmanuel Sanders' long kick return for the Steelers late in the fourth quarter that helped Pittsburgh get in position for Shaun Suisham's game-winning field goal.
"We've got to play better on special teams," Harbaugh said. "We're going to go find some guys that want to play special teams.
"We're not going to have guys out there letting the ball run outside of them. That's unheard of. We're not going to run a surprise onside kick and not know what we're doing. We'll go to work on that. If it means changing people out, then that's what we'll do."
As Harbaugh said at one point Monday, every season presents its own set of challenges, and the Ravens had issues at this same time last year before eventually winning the Super Bowl.
But a big difference between last season and this season is that Baltimore was 5-2 through seven games last year and is below .500 through seven games this season.
Do the Ravens have the talent to contend for a Super Bowl? They believe so.
Did the offense make positive strides against Pittsburgh Sunday? Yes.
But whether Baltimore has reached a state of emergency or not, players and coaches all admit that Baltimore has improvements and changes that need to be made during the bye week this week.
"We're capable of winning all these games," Harbaugh said. "I feel like we should have won them all, but I always feel that way. We just need to work on all the things we need to work on. We need to run the ball. We need to stop the run. We need to get turnovers. We need to not turn the ball over. We need to protect the quarterbacks. We need to get sacks.
"We need to score in the red zone. We need to continue to stop people from scoring in the red zone. We need to get big plays. We need to stop people from having big plays. Those are all the things that you're asking about that we have to do better. Now how do you go do that? That's the challenge."