Peter Schmuck: Harbaugh says Ravens' inconsistency result of execution, not preparation

October 25, 2011|Peter Schmuck

The legions of anguished fans who have been overloading the sports talk switchboards since the Ravens belly-flopped on "Monday Night Football" are not the only ones trying to make sense of the seemingly inexplicable across-the-spectrum performance of one of the AFC's top Super Bowl contenders.

Really, can anyone explain how the Ravens scored decisive victories over three of the top teams in the AFC while losing two of three games to teams that — at least on paper — are the ones that are supposed to help you get home-field advantage in the playoffs?

During his news conference Tuesday, coach John Harbaugh stuck with the nuts and bolts of Monday's 12-7 loss to the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars and steered around any conjecture about the strange competitive dichotomy that has presented itself during the first seven weeks of the season.

Clearly, the Ravens were sky high for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opener, and they won going away against the New York Jets and Houston Texans. That's why it might be appealing to characterize the Week 2 loss to the Tennessee Titans and Monday night's dismal performance as emotional lapses rather than physical or strategic breakdowns. Harbaugh isn't buying that.

"It's not about guys not being ready to play," Harbaugh said. "Guys were ready to play. I think our guys played with emotion and they tried to be physical. But we've got to be more consistent. You've got to be more consistent, especially on the offensive side of the ball — play to play, series to series — and you've got to do your job, and we've got to do a better job of putting guys in position to do their jobs, so it's executing plays. That's the bottom line."

Harbaugh also rejected another theory, that the reason the defense played well and the offense didn't was because the defense is packed with veterans who can maintain an emotional equilibrium from game to game and the offense is dominated by younger players who are still learning how to mentally prepare for each opponent.

"If that was it, you'd probably say the younger guys were making all the mistakes or not executing as well, and that really wasn't the case," Harbaugh said. "It was pretty fairly spread around to everybody. Two of those games were on the road, [and we faced] a certain type of front that got after us a little bit that we didn't block quite as well as some of the other fronts we played against. That might be more the things that we'd look at. I just don't believe [we weren't prepared]."

The coaching staff was busy Tuesday breaking down the film and trying to figure out what went wrong with the offensive scheme. The message-board maniacs, meanwhile, were ready to throw quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron out with the bathwater. Harbaugh was more interested in where the Ravens go from here.

"We've got to come back this Sunday, and we've got to play," he said. "The main thing is we've got to look at this loss and we've got to learn from it and we've got to get ready for Arizona at the same time."

The Ravens have a short week, and they'll need to have a short memory, but no one should forget that Harbaugh said there would be games like this when he was putting this team together on a short training camp schedule after the lockout. He predicted that things would be unpredictable during the early weeks of the season, and that has been the case all around the NFL.

"Yeah, I think it's been crazy," he said. "It's been absolutely crazy. The swings of play up and down the roller coaster that teams have been on, and I look at our team. You look at yourself first, and we've been pretty wildly inconsistent, especially on offense. With our offensive line situation, I don't think that's completely unexpected, but that's not something we were striving for. We're striving for consistency. We're just going to keep fighting for that … until we find it. We've got to find it on Sunday.

"When this whole season is said and done and everybody goes back and analyzes what happened with the lockout and everything, it's probably something you're going to see with most every team, having those mood swings."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "The Week in Review" Fridays at noon on WBAL (1090 AM) and wbal.com.

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