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Mike Preston: These Ravens are resilient, but when are they going to get better? | COMMENTARY

"Lamar [Jackson] texted me, he said, 'Go do your thing today. I'm going to be watching.'"

The Ravens like to talk about resiliency and winning, but there also should be an emphasis on when.

As in, when are the Ravens going to get better?

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The importance of a 7-3 record and gaining separation in the AFC North is understandable, but the Ravens haven’t improved much since the beginning of the season. The NFL is a week-to-week league, but that also describes the Ravens’ play style.

It’s fair to point out that the Ravens have had more injuries than most teams in the NFL and that other top teams have struggled — like the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans did Sunday — but those teams have also put together some impressive wins.

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The Ravens have had two: a 23-7 win over the Denver Broncos on Oct. 3, and a 34-6 rout against the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 17.

Other than that, there hasn’t been much improvement. The offensive line can’t pass block, as evidenced by the six sacks allowed Sunday in a 16-13 comeback victory against the Chicago Bears. The pass rush isn’t consistent, and the Ravens continue to give up big plays on defense. In addition, the coaching in the past two games has been poor.

The Ravens had an excuse Sunday because they were without ailing star quarterback Lamar Jackson, who covers up a lot of their weaknesses. But even with him in the lineup, certain areas haven’t improved.

When will that happen?

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Former Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda used to say that more games are lost in the NFL than won. The Ravens’ win against the Bears is proof.

After the game, the Ravens talked about resiliency, perseverance and never giving up. It’s the same theme every week.

But the truth is that on Sunday, the Ravens were awful and the Bears were worse. Chicago gave up a five-play, 72-yard game-winning drive in the last 1:41 by interfering with a receiver who had no chance of catching the ball and losing Sammy Watkins in zone coverage for a 29-yard reception.

This drive was orchestrated by Tyler Huntley, a second-year quarterback making his first NFL start on the road at Soldier Field. So, now you know why the Bears have lost five straight and their coach, Matt Nagy, might get fired before the end of the season.

While there might not be any dominant teams in the AFC at the moment, with the possible exception of the New England Patriots, there will be at the end of the regular season. Some team is going to get hot and ride that momentum into the postseason.

Will it be the Ravens? If so, when?

“As far as the game goes, obviously, it's just a spectacular win," Harbaugh. "The kind of win that takes faith and takes guts."

They will get some players returning from injuries, but not enough to make a significant difference. In pass protection, offensive tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Patrick Mekari continue to struggle. Besides Jackson, the Ravens don’t have an outside threat in the running game, and it’s bizarre how Jackson seems to struggle with some type of ailment every year.

On defense, outside linebacker Tyus Bowser had two sacks Sunday, but if Bears quarterback Andy Dalton had been on target, he might have thrown for 300 yards in the second half alone. A lack of communication appeared to be a problem in the secondary Sunday, but we’ve heard that since the beginning of the season.

Apparently, something or someone isn’t getting through.

Last Thursday, when the Ravens lost to Miami, neither Jackson nor the Ravens had an answer for the Dolphins’ aggressive “Cover 0” blitzes. Against the Bears, a poor decision late in the first half on a pass to Andrews almost cost them a field goal, and the decision to pass instead of run in the fourth quarter led to an interception that almost cost the Ravens the game.

There is no justification for leaving a young cornerback like Chris Westry one-on-one with receiver Marquise Goodwin on fourth-and-11 with no safety help over the top, which resulted in a 49-yard touchdown pass and a 13-9 Bears lead with 1:41 to go.

There are just so many questions surrounding this team, including why so many players are getting hurt.

It’s great the Ravens won Sunday. It sure beats the alternative. But even without Jackson, they should have played better. They got dominated by the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 24 and then beat the Minnesota Vikings in overtime.

They were embarrassed on national TV on Nov. 11 in Miami and then struggled to beat Chicago. Whenever you watch a top contending team, there is a point somewhere during the season when the proverbial switch is flipped.

There is still time for that to happen with the Ravens, but we’re still waiting.

It’s good to win, but when are they going to get better?

Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) escapes several Ravens defenders on his way to a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter at Soldier Field on Sunday in Chicago.
Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) escapes several Ravens defenders on his way to a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter at Soldier Field on Sunday in Chicago. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
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