The Ravens limp into their bye week with a 4-5 record that includes a three-game losing skid and find themselves trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in the race for the AFC North title. While the position is not ideal, the bye could not have come at a better time for a weary group of players and coaches, coach John Harbaugh said.
“It’s a long season obviously. It’s been a tough stretch,” he said during his weekly media availability Monday afternoon. “We’ve played three really good football teams the last three games. We haven’t won them. Two of the three have been really tight good football games and we didn’t do enough to win one, two or any of those games. That’s the difficult part. The plus part is they’re good football teams, and we’ve been going hard, our players have been playing hard.”
Harbaugh laid out the schedule for the week, saying players will attend meetings and work out at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills on Tuesday before being given off the rest of the week. The coaches will remain at team headquarters to begin planning for the next game, against the Bengals on Nov. 18 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Harbaugh said he has already watched film of Sunday’s 23-16 loss to the Steelers and came away with specific points and areas to address with the members of his coaching staff and the players.
“If you watch the tape, we played fast, we played hard,” he said. “But are we as fast as were early in the year? Probably not, probably a step off just because it’s Week 9. So this week is going to help us. It’s going to help us pick up that step back, and I’m really kind of excited about that.”
Barring a last-second development, the players will return from the bye with Harbaugh in his familiar position as head coach. After answering questions Sunday about his future with the team, he said Monday that he was not offended by the questions about his job security.
“I understand that’s part of it and probably not surprised because you have to win games in this league,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. I’m not really surprised or insulted, no.”
Nothing ‘serious’ for T. Young
Slot cornerback Tavon Young suffered a right ankle injury in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game but did not appear to be walking with much of a limp inside the locker room underneath M&T Bank Stadium. Harbaugh confirmed that Young’s ailment was minor.
“I don’t think it’s a serious ankle. In fact, I know it wasn’t,” he said. “But the rest is going to help Tavon. He’s been putting some reps up, and this week is going to be big for Tavon.”
Harbaugh said outside linebacker Terrell Suggs’ absence on a few third-down plays late in the game was not injury-related. He said the bye week should help players such as left tackle Ronnie Stanley (left ankle), right tackle James Hurst (back), outside linebacker Tim Williams (right ankle) and maybe even a player on injured reserve like cornerback Maurice Canady (hamstring).
“I think all of our injuries are along those lines, and then we’ll be looking at a few guys coming back potentially,” he said. “Maurice Canady maybe. Guys like that. So, yeah, the timing is pretty good right now that way.”
‘Issues’ for Dixon
Harbaugh said the decision to trade a 2020 seventh-round draft pick to the Green Bay Packers for running back-wide receiver Ty Montgomery was not related to the absence of running back Kenneth Dixon, who has been on injured reserve since injuring his knee in the fourth quarter of a 47-3 thrashing of the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 9.
But Harbaugh indicated that Dixon’s return to the field might take longer than anticipated.
“There’s issues going on with him that are beyond our coaches’ control,” he said of the 2016 fourth-round pick who has played in only one game since the start of the 2017 season. “We just have to wait for league clearance and things like that. I don’t even delve into that because it’s not my concern. [General manager] Ozzie [Newsome] takes care of that. When he tells us he can practice, he’ll be out there. I’m really hopeful it’s next week. We’ll know more next week.”
Red zone slippage
After setting an NFL record with 13 touchdowns in as many trips inside opponents’ 20-yard line, the offense has gone 9-for-20 since then.
The unit has converted 66.7 percent of its red zone chances, dropping from fourth to eighth in the NFL in red-zone efficiency after a 1-for-4 performance against Pittsburgh.
“It’s frustrating because in these types of games, you don’t get that many plays and that many opportunities, and obviously scoring touchdowns is the name of the game,” quarterback Joe Flacco said Sunday. “That’s how you have to win games in this league, but there are plenty of other things that we can look at that we didn’t get done today, and that’s what we’ll do.”
O. Brown’s body slam
Orlando Brown Jr. added a personal touch to the Ravens-Steelers rivalry when the 6-foot-8, 345-pound rookie right tackle drove back 6-4, 252-pound T.J. Watt and then body-slammed him to the turf.
The professional wrestling-style move was shared widely on social media, but Brown insisted that he meant no physical harm to Watt.
“Yeah, I’ve got to see the film, but the body-slam block, I was just trying to set the tone for whenever I’m out there, and he’s out there,” said the organization’s first of two third-round picks in April’s NFL draft.
“He’s a great player, [but] I don’t back down from any fights. He’s a guy who is really good at what he does. I want to be one of the greats, and it basically starts by dominating guys like that.”