Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been coaching in the NFL since 2004 and he learned a valuable lesson long ago that resonated this week.
"One game never defines you, good or bad," Pees said Thursday after the Ravens finished practice. "It didn't define us after Denver. It won't define us after Oakland."
That doesn't mean that Pees isn't still annoyed about what he saw on the field last Sunday, when the Ravens allowed the Oakland Raiders to pile up 448 yards of offense and score the game-winning touchdown with 26 seconds remaining.
The Ravens say that they have moved on from that shocking 37-33 loss to the Raiders and their focus is on Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, a game they need to win to avoid falling to 0-3 for the first time in team history. However, the process of turning the page started with a thorough review of the Raiders' game film, which Pees described as "hard to watch."
"In the first game against Denver, we played with a lot of energy, so we had very, very few missed tackles, we had very few penalties and we had no big plays. This last game, we did not play with energy," Pees said. "And when you don't play with energy, you end up with six penalties, numerous missed tackles and several big plays. That was the bottom line. For whatever reason, we didn't play with energy. The players are responsible for that and so are the coaches. It's up to us to get them to play with energy and play at a high level, and it's up to them as players to produce at a high level. It's all of us."
Ravens players and coaches have lined up to take accountability for the poor defensive effort against the Raiders, which included a flurry of missed tackles, communication lapses, blown assignments and mental errors. The Raiders hadn't scored that many points since they put up 39 on the Denver Broncos in December 2010.
Now, the Ravens defense will have to rebound against a Bengals team that coach John Harbaugh called the most talented in the NFL. Cincinnati has piled up 57 points over two games and is averaging 392.5 yards of total offense. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has yet to turn the ball over or be sacked.
"We've lost here before," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "We've gotten our [butts] whooped before badly, and came back and won, so I mean, it's not a situation where we're sitting there licking our wounds. It's not a situation where we're going to [dwell]. We look at that tape like, 'That's not us,' and threw it away the next day."
The concerns, however, won't go away that easily. The Ravens defense played a strong game in a season-opening loss to the Broncos, sacking Peyton Manning four times and limiting Denver's vaunted offense to 219 total yards.
But last week, in the first game without outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was lost for the season to an Achilles' injury, the Ravens struggled to mount a pass rush, and their secondary didn't hold up.
Veteran Jason Babin, who was signed last week but was inactive against the Raiders, could provide a boost as an edge rusher and a healthy Rashaan Melvin would improve the team's cornerback depth. But the Ravens will primarily have to make do with what they have.
Meanwhile, in getting the ball out quickly and getting their receivers the ball in space, the Raiders probably provided a blueprint for how to attack the Ravens going forward.
"Oakland was getting the ball out quick, but so did Manning. We knew going into both those games [that] they were going to get the ball out quick, and it's not going to be any different this game either," Pees said. "I felt like in the last game, because I didn't feel like we were playing with energy, that's the worst time to pressure because that means you're not going to get there and you're really not playing aggressive on the back end. I pressured a whole lot less in this last game than I did in the first game. That was not my intent."
A couple of days after Harbaugh publicly challenged the effort of the defense, Pees made another telling comment when he said that Ravens coaches have to get the defensive players to "play harder." He acknowledged that changes in defensive schemes are always under consideration, but he felt that the group's success in the Denver game proved that the scheme was not the issue.
Ultimately, much of it will be up to the players, to tackle and execute better and communicate more.
"We had like four big plays and we had 13 missed tackles. Those two things alone will get you losses. We just have to do better as a whole defensive unit," Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "Finishing, communicating, just doing the right things. For us, we just try and eliminate the little things. We'll worry about formations and all that when that time comes. We have to work on technique. Nine times out of 10, if you do the right thing, be in the right spot, you'll make the play."
With Suggs gone, cornerback Lardarius Webb is the longest tenured member of the Ravens defense. Following the loss to the Raiders, he sat slumped in front of his locker for nearly 15 minutes, staring straight ahead. He put the loss on the secondary and vowed that it would regroup and play much better going forward.
What he's seen in practice this week from the group has only strengthened his belief.
"It seemed like each player took accountability for their mistakes and their actions," Webb said. "When you watch practice, you just see a lot of guys who want to be better, a team that doesn't like the taste of 0-2. I'm proud of the defense, how it did come back and practice. When you're 0-2, it's kind of hard to get pumped up. But these guys, they are excited from the morning of the first meeting until the end of practice. That just tells you a lot about the team and the people we have. They want to be great. They want to get back to the Baltimore Ravens defense. As long as they've got the want, we can get there."