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Mike Preston: Ravens need to be more consistent to be championship contenders | COMMENTARY

Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position after Sunday’s 24-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

It’s one of the most repeated clichés in the NFL, but it aptly applies to the Ravens.

Before this season is over, Ravens coach John Harbaugh has to teach his team how to play a full 60 minutes. They can play 30 minutes well enough, even though it’s difficult to tell whether they will play hard in the first half or in the second.

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But this half-a-game stuff is risky business, especially when playing against quality teams.

A week ago, the Ravens blew a 10-point halftime lead in a 28-24 loss to the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers. On Sunday, they rallied in the second half for a 24-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts, a team that entered with an identical 5-2 record.

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“It feels really good to get this victory,” Ravens rookie running back J.K. Dobbins said. “That’s what matters the most. In the beginning, we started a little slow, but this team never gave up. So, coming out with the win, that’s all that matters.”

That sounds good for now, but Harbaugh knows better. He has been around long enough to know that when it comes to the final quarter of the regular season and the postseason, a team has to be playing at its highest level.

If not, it’ll be a quick exit out of the playoffs for the Ravens, like it has been for the past two years.

When you watch the Ravens, you don’t know which team will show up. There is the team that is undisciplined and gets hit with a lot of penalties. It’s the one that showed up in the first half Sunday, when the Ravens were outgained 201-55.

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Then there is the one that appeared in the second half, which posted 266 yards of total offense and held the Colts to 138. As someone who has observed the NFL for more than 33 years, watching the Ravens is mystifying, especially when you consider the talent.

It’s great to pull out these kinds of wins, but the Ravens need to become more stable, especially on offense.

“Yes, we definitely got off to a slow start — just based off the feeling out there. I haven’t necessarily seen the film yet,” left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said. “In the second half, we came out ready to go. And the mentality and approach that we came out with, [and the] play-calling in those situations definitely was able to make the difference.

“I think every game kind of differs, man. It’s all kind of game plan-based. And obviously, as a team, we want to get rolling. We do a pretty good job of staying in shape, practicing, and making sure that we’re consistently getting our timing and rhythm together. So, as far as next week, how we come out and play — I hope it’s on fire.”

On fire?

Basically, the success of the season will depend on the offensive line. The group has already been depleted by injuries, but it’s still solid enough as run blockers to succeed. The unit was terrible in the first half Sunday, especially Brown and left guard Bradley Bozeman. Center Matt Skura, because of a cut on his hand, had problems snapping out of the shotgun formation and the Ravens couldn’t pass protect against the Colts' defensive front.

But there was a transformation again at halftime. Maybe it was a great Harbaugh speech or major adjustments. Or maybe the Ravens just took some mean pills.

But quarterback Lamar Jackson started throwing better passes and completing more attempts over the middle. He increased the tempo and controlled the pace of the game. Like last season, he became a threat as both a runner and a passer.

When Jackson starts flashing that smile, that means he is having fun again. And when the offense starts to jell and score points, that allows the defense to turn its pass rushers and ballhawks loose to cause turnovers.

It’s the same formula the Ravens used last season when they finished 14-2, which included 12 straight wins and homefield advantage in the playoffs. Because the Ravens were returning most of their players and coaching staff, it was safe to conclude that they would ride the same style back into the postseason in 2020.

That hasn’t been the case.

There are some halves when the Ravens look like Super Bowl contenders and others when they look like the Cincinnati Bengals. There is plenty of time to get this worked out, but it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Consistency is the key to greatness.

Anything less won’t lead to a championship.

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