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After loss, Ravens glad for quick turnaround

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The Sports Xchange

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens didn’t have time much to ponder the latest setback in a disappointing start to their season.

After falling to 0-3 with a loss to the Bengals, the Ravens had just three days to prepare for a showdown with rival Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Baltimore, however, will need to find some quick fixes for its struggling secondary and grounded rushing attack to earn that first win in a hostile environment.

Pittsburgh will be playing without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is expected to miss four to six weeks with a sprained MCL and bone bruise. As a result, the Ravens adapted their defensive game plan to deal with the mobile Michael Vick.

Even with that change, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and the rest of his players have a good idea of what to expect in this heated rivalry — a hard-hitting clash that could come down to the game’s final play.

“We all have a pretty good knowledge of all the players in the league – at least the guys that have played a lot,” Harbaugh said. “Michael Vick has played a lot of football. If you go back to the 2004 NFC Championship Game, I had a chance to play against him. I saw him close up and personal there, running around, making plays. He has been one of the premier players in the league for many years. I have a lot of respect for him. He is a fine quarterback. He brings unique talents to the table, and those are things we have to prepare for.”

Baltimore has lost all three of its games by a total of 14 points this season. While this has been frustrating, it has also given the team a sense of hope because they could have easily been 3-0 if they had made one more play on offense or had a key stop defensively.

Harbaugh is looking to get over that hump at Heinz Field. But even with a victory, the Ravens face an uphill battle to earn a postseason berth. The 1998 Buffalo Bills were the last team to start 0-3 and still make the playoffs.

“We’re a very confident football team, and we feel like we can overcome any adversity,” Harbaugh said. “We have before; we will again. I don’t care what walk of life you’re in, you’re going to go through tough times. You’re going to go through adversity. You’re going to walk through darkness, and you have to know (that) you have to keep walking. What’s the old saying? When you’re going through hell, keep going. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep going. We’re going to find a way out. We will come out of this the other way.”

Baltimore linebacker Elvis Dumervil was happy to be playing on a short week. This allowed the players to put the latest loss to the Bengals quickly behind them.

“I think we all want to remove ourselves from the situation,” Dumervil said. “So, it is a good thing we get to play Thursday night in a good rivalry game in our division. We’re looking forward to going to Pittsburgh.”

Entering the game, the Ravens are ranked 15th in the NFL for total offense, but tied for 27th with Miami for rushing yards. Starting running back Justin Forsett has been limited to 124 yards on 39 carries. Baltimore will have to do a better job getting its rushing attack revved up to control the clock and take some pressure off the defense.

The Ravens’ beleaguered secondary caught a break by not having to face Roethlisberger, who has put together some huge games against them over the years. While Vick does not have Roethlisberger’s arm strength, he provides a different challenge because he is a more effective runner. Pittsburgh also has one of the most talented receiving corps in the league, led by Antonio Brown.

“It’s going to be a very tough matchup, even without Ben Roethlisberger,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “Michael Vick is still very capable of running the offense. So, we have our hands full.”

–Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith has not lost his confidence. Despite his early-season struggles, head coach John Harbaugh also has faith Smith can turn things around. In Week 2 against Oakland, Smith got beat by rookie Amari Cooper for a 68-yard touchdown on the opening drive. The following game, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green caught 10 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns, including the game-winning score with just over two minutes left in the game. Smith took the game against Cincinnati especially hard, prompting Harbaugh to pull him aside for a one-on-one conversation.

“We spoke, and I talked to most all the guys – pretty much – as much as you can in a short period of time,” Harbaugh said. “Jimmy is a really good football player. What you talk about is the trade. You talk about the craft. You talk about the things that apply to playing the position and coaching the position and all that, and (those are) the things we’ve been focusing on.”

Smith had a season-ending foot injury last year. Still, the Ravens had enough confidence to sign him to a four-year, $40 million contract prior to this season. Smith said the entire secondary just needs to play better. He knows it starts with him.

“There are times when we’re playing at a high level; it’s just we’ve got to be way more consistent,” Smith said. “It’s minor techniques – even though they’re huge plays – it’s a minor technique that we’re missing or that we’re not completing. So, it’s not even the calls; it’s things we have to fix and clean up, and we’ll get that done.”

Even with the slow start, Smith’s teammates have also not lost confidence in him.

“Jimmy is one of our best corners,” linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “He’s one of the good players on our team – great guy, great teammate. Some days you give up plays, some days you make plays. That’s just the National Football League, and I wouldn’t want to take any other corner but him.”

SERIES HISTORY: 39th regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series, 21-17. The Ravens-Steelers rivalry is one of the most heated in the NFL. The teams have split their regular-season meetings for the past three years. Baltimore, however, knocked Pittsburgh out of the playoffs last season with a 30-17 victory at Heinz Field. The Steelers had won the three previous postseason matchups.


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