A defiant John Harbaugh reiterated Monday that the Ravens will fix the mistakes that have led to a 1-5 start, the worst in the franchise's 20-year history.
Assessing his team's latest disappointment, a 25-20 loss to the last-place San Francisco 49ers, Harbaugh said the Ravens are giving up too many big plays, missing too many opportunities on offense and committing too many careless turnovers.
He said it will be up to coaches and players not only to fix technical mistakes but to maintain a resilient spirit. The Ravens will surely be underdogs when they visit the 4-2 Arizona Cardinals on Monday night, but Harbaugh's expectations for a breakout are undiminished.
"All the questions are about 'can you do that,' and I don't even know how to take it. Of course we can. Of course we will," Harbaugh said. "We'll fight man. We'll come out swinging. And we will find a way to win, and we will turn it around. There's no doubt about it. It's going to happen, no matter how much some people doubt."
Harbaugh has never experienced a losing season in Baltimore and he won't concede frustration or exhaustion with his team's circumstances.
But the Ravens have made the same mistakes week after week.
They've fallen behind early in games. The injury-riddled secondary has allowed too many long completions and created too few turnovers. A once-proud defense has struggled to stop quarterbacks who've looked average against other opponents. Quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown seven interceptions in six games, including an inexplicable heave to no man's land against the 49ers.
The coaches were also off their game Sunday, using two second-half timeouts — one to fix an offensive play call and one on an unsuccessful challenge — that could have been valuable on the team's final drive.
The Ravens have yet to lose by more than six points, but that's no comfort to Harbaugh. "The bottom line is we're not good enough to win them right now," he said of the close games.
The locker room was somber after Sunday's loss, with players struggling to explain how the season has veered so far off course.
"We fix one thing and then another thing happens," said second-year linebacker C.J. Mosley, who has struggled in recent weeks. "We know how to win and we know what to do. We practice our butts off in all of these situations in practice."
"I think guys are prepared, just everybody including myself has got to make a play extra," added linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who played through a groin injury against San Francisco. "We're just not getting it done."
It has become a puzzling experience for a team that expected to make another deep playoff run this season.
If Harbaugh was defiant and optimistic during his postgame press conference, he demonstrated his irritation with a sideline lecture to newly-signed cornerback Shareece Wright after Wright was burned for a 76-yard touchdown on a double move by former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.
Harbaugh felt no regrets about the dressing down, which was captured by CBS cameras. "You coach guys the way you need to," he said. "Shareece and I have a great relationship. I've known him for about a year now, and he understands. Certain things are expected."
He added that Wright, who had been cut by the 49ers this month, played well except for the two plays on which he allowed touchdowns to Smith and Quinton Patton.
Wright wasn't the only Raven to struggle in coverage against the 49ers. The team's secondary has become a weakness for a second consecutive season, despite general manager Ozzie Newsome's promises to shore up the unit in the offseason.
Harbaugh said the Ravens are simply allowing too many big plays, noting that four catches in particular (three of them for more than 50 yards) sunk his defense on Sunday.
He blamed one on an improper defensive scheme and the other three on poor coverage technique.
"If we stop giving up plays, we're playing very good defense," he said. "But that's how it always works when you give up big plays. That's where all the yards are at. That's how most of the yards are made in this league. … Within that, there are a lot of details. There are personnel issues, there are scheme issues, there are match-up issues. Those are all the things we have to look at specifically."
Asked if the Ravens will continue to audition new candidates for the secondary — which played without injured starting cornerback Lardarius Webb against the 49ers and lost safety Kendrick Lewis to a knee injury in the third quarter — Harbaugh said it's possible.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith, the star of the unit, took responsibility for another loss but offered few easy answers.
"It's more magnified when you're losing games — technique, messing up one play, is more magnified when you're losing a lot of games," he said. "Everybody is sitting right here with the worst feeling. Our city is back home with the worst feeling in their stomachs. We've got to come through. It's just unacceptable."
He also pointed to big plays as the team's Achilles' heel.
"They're not just going down dinking and dunking, they're huge plays," Smith said. "There's no excuse for us as a secondary."
Flacco also placed a healthy portion of the blame on himself and what he termed stupid mistakes.
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But Harbaugh said any suggestion his quarterback has "regressed" is a nonstarter.
"To use that term, I would never use that term for a guy with his career," he said. "He's had more [interceptions] than he's going to want to throw, and he'll be the first one to tell you that."
Despite the myriad difficulties, Harbaugh said he hasn't seen any hint of his team giving up. He's not certain, however, when the labor will pay off.
"We think we're going to get there every week," he said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Zrebiec and Jon Meoli contributed from Santa Clara, Calif.