What Ravens have to fix

At top of list: figuring out identity

November 16, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

CLEVELAND — — The last time a national television audience saw the Ravens was the AFC championship game 10 months ago, when they were known for running the ball on offense, creating turnovers on defense and winning games on the leg of Matt Stover.

When the football world sees the Ravens again tonight, it's unknown which Ravens team will show up.

Returning to their former home, the up-and-down Ravens (4-4) are searching for an identity as much as a victory when they kick off the second half of their season against the dysfunctional Cleveland Browns (1-7).

"We're still working on that, as far as what people see us as," tight end Todd Heap said. "I think inside the locker room, we're just as confident as ever. We know what type of team we are. We know that we have a lot of strengths, and we just need to make sure they come out every week. And that's the biggest thing, it's being more consistent with it."

So far, the Ravens' identity is inconsistency. These days, it's hard to predict what Ravens team will take the field from game to game, or quarter to quarter.

The Ravens were sitting atop many NFL power rankings when they won their first three games. Now, they're 2 1/2 games behind in the AFC North after losing four of their past five. They've lost games because they couldn't finish. They've lost games because they started slowly.

"If you want to define us right now, I think we have a lot of tough, hard-nosed guys," coach John Harbaugh said. "We have guys fighting like crazy to try to find a way to win a football game. We're playing very hard; we're trying to be physical. But we have come up short way too many times, and I'd say too many times for the kind of team we are.

"Now, we're not as disciplined as we need to be. We don't make plays like we need to make them. I don't think we've done a good enough job of putting ourselves in situations to give our guys the best chance to make plays. That starts with me. So, we've got to find a way to do those things to give us a chance to have an outcome that we can be happy about, and we haven't done that enough."

Here are the most inconsistent parts of the Ravens' team:

•The Ravens had the NFL's top run defense for the first four weeks of the season before allowing 100-yard rushers in three of their past four games.

Said defensive coordinator Greg Mattison: "What's happened is one or two guys will get out of their gaps. Instead of those runs being 5 and 6 yards, they end up being 20 yards. I think they are addressing it. But we've got to keep them from getting the 20-yard runs. That's what we've got to do. That's our job."

•In the first four games, Joe Flacco averaged 275 passing yards and threw for eight touchdowns. In his past four games, he has averaged 235 passing yards and has thrown for four touchdowns.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said this rut in the passing game isn't the result of any new defensive schemes.

"Every team makes adjustments, but we're not seeing anything drastically different," he said. "Our execution has just got to get better."

•Steve Hauschka is 7-for-8 on field-goal attempts in the first three quarters of games. He is 1-for-3 in the fourth quarter.

He said consistency is more mental than physical.

"You got to have the confidence to go out there and use your swing every single time, regardless of the conditions and regardless of the game situation," he said.

• Ed Reed blasts Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno to force a fumble. Seven days later, he misses three arm tackles.

"I think he's healthy," Mattison said. "I think he's a warrior. I think anything he's doing out there, Ed Reed's going to go as hard as he can and do whatever he can do to help us win. There [are] times that you hate to see it happen, that a guy will miss a tackle. That's where you've got to get everybody else rallying to it to make plays."

•In the first four games, the Ravens scored 34 points in the first quarter. In the past four games, they have scored three points (a 43-yard field goal).

"We believe in each other. I don't think we need to blow the whole thing up and get a new offense," center Matt Birk said. "What's a batter do if he's in a slump? He keeps swinging."

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