NFL Wire News

Ravens’ road won’t get easier vs. Bengals at home


The Sports Xchange

By Todd Karpovich, The Sports Xchange

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens returned to Baltimore after a disastrous two-game, West Coast trip to open the season. Not only did Baltimore lose both games, the team lost former All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs to a season-ending injury.

The road, though, does not get any easier.

The Ravens play their home opener on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, who have won four of the last five meetings, including three straight.

After that game, Baltimore must prepare for a trip to Pittsburgh on a short week for a Thursday night game.

Losses in those games would put the Ravens in a deep early-season hole that might be too difficult to overcome.

“We would have hoped to have come back with more victories under our belt, but we didn’t, and that’s the situation we find ourselves in going forward,” head coach John Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference.

“We are going to have to deal with it and work from this position that we’re in and improve and find a way to win some football games. But, I am really confident in our guys’ ability to do that. I know they’re going to go to work and try to get that done.”

Baltimore is 0-2 for the first time under Harbaugh and already face an uphill battle to make the postseason. Only 12 percent of the teams since 1990 have advanced to the playoffs after losing their first two games, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Quarterback Joe Flacco played much better in Oakland than in the season-opener at Denver and wide receiver Steve Smith has been solid. However, Flacco still lacks a bona fide downfield threat and his receivers, Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown, have had some drops.

Flacco fully understands the challenges facing the Ravens.

“We have to take it one game at a time,” Flacco said. “We’re not going to be able to get to 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, in one week. We have a tough road ahead and we have to take it one week at a time.

“We have to take it one back, one back, one back and claw our way into it. We’ve been in tough spots before. We just have to make sure we keep our head down. We don’t lose any confidence in this situation. We have to stay tight-knit.”

The Ravens managed only one sack against Oakland and the secondary struggled against quarterback Derek Carr, who was questionable to even play because of a thumb injury.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil started in place of Suggs but was relatively quiet for much of the game. It may take more time for him to adjust to his bigger role.

Courtney Upshaw will start at outside linebacker. Rookie Za’Darius Smith and veteran Albert McClellan are getting additional reps.

The Ravens hope newly-signed Jason Babin can make some type of impact at outside linebacker, but he was a healthy scratch against Oakland.

“We are 0-2, but it isn’t the end of the season,” safety Kendrick Lewis said. “You know, we’ve got 14 more games to play. We just have to get back, correct our mistakes and get back to the drawing board; get ready for Cincinnati.”

To help with the secondary, the Ravens have traded a 2016 seventh-round draft pick to the Dolphins for cornerback Will Davis, who is a three-year veteran.

Davis was selected by Miami in the third round of the 2013 draft and has played in 15 career games.

The Ravens have a lot of work ahead of them to get out of last place in the AFC North. A win against Cincinnati is vital to getting them back on track.

“We’ve seen a lot of them over the years, and they have a lot of really good receivers, they have weapons,” Harbaugh said. “I’ll tell you, I do believe it is the most talented team in the league. I’ve seen that over the years. We have great respect for them, for their coaches (and) the way they play.

“Obviously, it starts with (wide receiver) A.J. Green, but the whole cast of characters there on offense is very talented and gifted — tight ends, running backs, quarterback. The whole group is very good, and they have a heck of an offensive line. I’d say they’re the complete package, talent-wise.”


PASSING OFFENSE: B — Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 32-of-45 passes for 384 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He did underthrow a couple of passes that could have turned into big plays. Tight end Crockett Gillmore was the recipient of both of those touchdown passes and Steve Smith had a huge day with 10 catches for 150 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — The Ravens trailed most of the game, so they could not fully establish the running game. This also hindered the defense, which was on the field for long stretches. Justin Forsett had 68 yards on 15 carries and backup Lorenzo Taliaferro had a seven-yard touchdown run.

PASS DEFENSE: F — The Ravens secondary got beat for long passes and allowed the game-winning touchdown in the final minute. Top cornerback Jimmy Smith was beaten by rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper for a 68-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr completed 30-of-46 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns. Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree had nine catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Cooper finished with seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.

RUSH DEFENSE: D — The Ravens allowed chunks of yards on the ground and simply did not get enough pressure on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. This put added pressure on the already struggling secondary. There were also several missed tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus — Kicker Justin Tucker was his usually reliable self and converted all four of his field-goal attempts, with the longest from 37 yards. Coverage was solid most of the game. Sam Koch had two punts for 92 yards.

COACHING: D — The Ravens reportedly spent $1 million to stay out West to avoid traveling across country two weeks in a row. The result was two losses. The coaching staff also struggled with clock management, especially near the end of the game. The Ravens will need to come up with an improved game plan on both offense and defense to take down the Bengals (2-0) in Week 3.

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