Ravens not worried about a letdown against the Broncos

This being Baltimore, the home office for high anxiety, some fans are already freaking out about a potential Ravens letdown Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

You've heard all this before, of course.

In this town, a big Ravens win like Sunday's 17-14 thriller over the Pittsburgh Steelers inevitably translates into impending doom for the home team in its next game.

I heard it on the radio talk shows Tuesday. I read it on blogs and message boards.

I even bought a cup of coffee at Royal Farms and ran into a guy buzzing on 100percent Colombian Supremo who yakked nonstop about how the Ravens might as well bring 45 cots and pillows to M&T; Bank Stadium this weekend, so minimal would their effort be against the Broncos.

But out at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills, the Ravens were not exactly consumed with avoiding a letdown.

Asked Monday how he could keep the intensity level ratcheted up for the Denver game after coming off such an emotional, intense game in Pittsburgh, Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn't hesitate.

"You know how you do it?" he said. "You get the right kind of people on your team. You get the right kind of players, you get the right kind of coaches. … That's their mindset.

"We're playing a really good football team," he said. Denver "has talent. They're a very sound, solid defense, a very disciplined defense. Offensively, they've got weapons all over the place. They're the No. 1 passing team in the league by far. It's going to be a huge challenge for us that way. They've got weapons, four wide receivers that are all catching about the same number of balls and two returners that can hurt you at any time.

"So how can you have a letdown when you're playing somebody like that?"

OK, some of that was "the-Ravens-are-Mighty-Men" stuff that Harbaugh likes to break out on occasion.

And some of it was the standard NFL coach's strategy of making your next opponent look like the greatest team in the history of the game.

But Harbaugh has reason to feel confident in these Ravens and confident that their minds will be right come Sunday's 1p.m. kickoff.

Look what this Ravens team has done in its first four games: beaten the powerful New York Jets at their place, the cavernous New Meadowlands Stadium; narrowly lost to the Bengals in Cincinnati in a game in which quarterback Joe Flacco stank up the joint; posted a gritty, come-from- behind win at home against the Cleveland Browns; and gutted out a heart-pounding, last-minute win at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, maybe the toughest stadium in the NFL for opposing teams.

To be 3-1 in the tough AFC North after playing three of their first four games on the road against teams with excellent defenses? No wonder Harbaugh seems so calm and relaxed this week.

"We've got a bunch of tough guys -- mentally tough guys," he said. "I think we're a very composed team right now. I think we're a very smart team right now. We want to keep building on that. But the fact that we've been in those situations so much in the last year or so probably gives us an opportunity to do well here early in the season."

Here's the other thing you have to realize if you've followed the Ravens at all through the first quarter of the season: They have four impact players -- two on offense, two on defense -- playing at or near the top of their games right now.

Sure, everyone wants to see Flacco become more consistent. But the fourth-quarter comeback he engineered against the Browns and his 24-for-37 day against the Steelers and his icy calm during the final drive that led to the winning touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh signal a quarterback moving to an elite level.

Anquan Boldin (seven catches against the Steelers, a team-leading 27 catches for 355 yards this season) has proved to be the tough, physical, play-making wide receiver the Ravens sorely needed.

On defense, you have tackle Haloti Ngata, who was all over the field against the Steelers, making 11 tackles and playing with the restraint of a runaway train.

Ngata is scary good right now in this, his fifth season. And the sky's the limit on how great he can be.

Finally there's Ray Lewis, the All-Galaxy middle linebacker, who continues to play as if he were 22 years old. Did you see him lay out for that last interception against the Steelers, the one that ripped out their hearts? Unbelievable.

So, I'm with Harbaugh on this one. I don't see the Ravens letting up against the Broncos.

They're playing too well. They're having too much fun.

Save that doom-and-gloom stuff for another day.


Listen to Kevin Cowherd on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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