The buzzword for the Ravens this week, especially in the secondary, is consistency.
The Ravens (4-3) put on an impressive performance in trouncing the previously unbeaten Denver Broncos, 30-7, on Sunday before an announced 71,132 at M&T; Bank Stadium.
But can the secondary do it again?
If the Ravens are going to make a serious run at the playoffs, the next step is to become consistent. The next opponent is the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals, and unlike the Broncos, they are going to challenge the Ravens' secondary with long passes.
"I don't think there was much of a difference," Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth said in comparing the Denver game to others. "I think we go into every game intense and we expect to make plays every week, and sometimes we do and sometimes we don't, and I think it's more on us studying and being prepared and stepping up when we get the chance. At times, we haven't been stepping up so far this year."
The Ravens did Sunday. For the first time this season, both safeties, Ed Reed and Dawan Landry, came up and delivered vicious tackles on receivers and running backs. Even when the Broncos tried to go underneath the coverage by sending their receivers deep, Reed and Landry were disciplined enough to come up, hang around the box and make tackles.
For one of the few times this season, Foxworth and fellow cornerback Fabian Washington were crisp in tackling, a necessity when going against a short-passing offense like the Broncos'.
There was no place to run and no place to hide. Denver averaged only 6.6 yards on 23 catches.
"They were playing the safeties pretty deep," Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton said. "We tried to work inside on the linebackers but didn't have too much success doing that. We tried throwing outside and didn't have too much success doing that as well."
You can attribute the success Sunday to the Ravens playing more zone or getting more pressure on the quarterback, but it came down to fundamentals.
There was a lot of speculation from local media about possible trades at the beginning of the bye week, and also about some new, grand schemes inserted by defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
When you're on a three-game losing streak during the bye week, all you do, in coaches' vernacular, is "coach 'em up" on the fundamentals. The Ravens also played with great intensity and a sense of urgency.
"I'm happy with the way they played," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of his secondary. "I've been happy with the way they've tried to play all year, but I thought we played with great fundamental discipline and attention to detail, and it paid off."
The next step is to do it again and again. The secondary played better, but everything has to be put in perspective. The greatest mystery coming out of Sunday's game was why the Broncos didn't test the Ravens downfield.
Giving up big passing plays all season has been the Achilles' heel of the Ravens in 2009, and Denver failed to test the Ravens with a good group of receivers that included wide-outs Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney, and tight end Daniel Graham.
In Denver's defense, Orton is limited as a downfield thrower, but he was still tossing short passes in the flats trailing by 16 points early in the fourth quarter.
Those two guys are going to attack the Ravens' secondary. Like Denver, the Bengals have a lot of good receivers in Chad Ochocinco (39 catches, 573 yards, five touchdowns), Chris Henry (11, 216, two), Andre Caldwell (26, 257, two) and Laveranues Coles (16, 155, three).
The Bengals are averaging 23.3 points and 218.1 passing yards. Palmer is having his best season in recent years, having completed 140 of 227 passes for 1,608 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Immediately after the Ravens beat Denver on Sunday, Ochocinco was calling out Washington, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and other members of the Ravens' defense.
The question is whether the Ravens are ready to take the call. Has this secondary reached that level of consistency to help this team put together a substantial winning streak?
The answer comes Sunday in Cincinnati.