Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks about the 30-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
On the day after what had to be one of the most satisfying victories of his career, coach John Harbaugh was all smiles ... and why not?
The Ravens have reached their bye week with a fluffy cushion in the AFC North standings, and it has arrived at just the right time to allow several key players to return from injuries.
The decisive 30-16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday has raised the team’s national profile, quarterback Lamar Jackson has entered the Most Valuable Player conversation and Harbaugh’s “revolutionary” offense is living up to a preseason description that drew ridicule from some quarters.
“For those who are paying attention, there’s something pretty cool going on," Harbaugh said Monday, "and it’s happening here in Baltimore.”
The New England Patriots loom at the other end of this favorable fortnight, but it would be hard to imagine a more opportune time for this team to take a break to savor a signature performance and ponder the possibilities ahead.
The division title is there for the taking, even though the Ravens have a very tough remaining schedule that includes five of their next six games against potential playoff teams.
That’s why the victory over the Seahawks was so important, even if it wasn’t something anyone could count on. Guaranteeing a split of consecutive games against two of the toughest teams in the NFL reduces the pressure to beat the Patriots at home. But the pending return of deep-threat receiver Marquise Brown, cornerback Jimmy Smith and linebacker Patrick Onwausor makes it all the more possible.
“We feel very confident we should have all those guys back, barring a setback,” Harbaugh said, "and I can’t even imagine what that would be right now, so very optimistic that we’ll be full-strength coming out of the bye.”
There’s also the possibility that the Ravens will add to an improving defense before they take the field again, since two spots have opened on the roster because of the release of cornerback and special teams ace Justin Bethel and a potentially season-ending injury to outside linebacker Pernell McPhee that was the only sour note Sunday.
“I think we could either promote somebody, which is a possibility, or we can bring in somebody in," Harbaugh said. "Kind of depends on what the landscape looks like. I know Eric [DeCosta] is looking at that right now.”
DeCosta is having a pretty good season, too. His roster machinations over the past few weeks have produced terrific results, most notably last week’s trade for cornerback Marcus Peters.
Peters had an immediate impact on a defensive secondary that was getting burned for too many big plays, returning an interception for a touchdown Sunday. With Marlon Humphreys playing at an All-Pro level and Smith on the way back, the Ravens will have three of the top cornerbacks in the league.
Of course, most of the national attention will remain focused on Jackson, whose otherworldly elusiveness has validated Harbaugh’s opinion that the Ravens offense might truly be revolutionary.
He isn’t gloating, but he has — at least over the short term — received a measure of vindication.
“It’s crazy. You say something and you come under barrage from all the skeptics and scoffers, and I really don’t have any respect for those people, so who cares,” he said.
Indeed, this is no time for lamentation. The Ravens just took another huge step in the right direction. They proved they can beat anybody under any conditions, and they’ll have two weeks to gather strength for one of the two remaining undefeated teams in the league.
If their bye week turned out to be perfectly placed, Harbaugh wasn’t willing to give it that much significance.