Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh put the team’s 43-13 loss in Houston on his shoulders.
“It’s on me,” Harbaugh said in his opening statement Monday.
“We were not in position to win that game. We didn’t put our players in a great position to win the game. We obviously weren’t ready to handle their scheme, their intensity, the crowd. All the things we were up against in that game, we did not do a good job with, and I take full responsibility for that.”
With Harbaugh taking the blame, he decided to give his players the rest the week off following a Tuesday practice. They’ll be free to heal their aching bodies and visit with family.
But over this week’s bye, the entire coaching staff will conduct some deep self-reflecting.
Primarily, the staff will take aim on figuring out how it can have a more productive offense on the road and fix a defense that’s getting gashed on the ground and, more recently, through the air.
On Sunday night, the head coach re-watched the Houston loss from the perspective of the offense, defense and special teams – twice each.
On Monday morning, Harbaugh met with all the coaches individually to get their take on what happened and ideas for moving forward. He also talked to a lot of players, gathering as much information as possible.
Usually, the offensive and defensive coordinators exchange tape and evaluate each other. The Ravens offense looks for holes in the Ravens defense and vice versa. This year, Harbaugh said each unit will hone in on their own side of the ball.
“I don’t want to be too vague on this, but it’s kind of hard to pinpoint exactly what we’re going to do, because we don’t know yet,” Harbaugh said.
“We have everything we need – we have all the players we need, and we have all the scheme we need. Now, what we have to do is organize it in a way that gives our players a chance to play their fastest and their best under pressure, on the road – against good teams – and at home.”
The Ravens want to decide which offense to pack for traveling. The unit scored just six second-half points in a loss in Philadelphia. It failed to score a touchdown in a 9-6 win in Kansas City. It posted just 179 total yards in Houston.
Harbaugh tossed out different possibilities such as using the run game more, changing the tempo and altering communication. He also mentioned shaking up the offensive line.
It is also a larger scheme question. Harbaugh said they are “in the process of determining exactly what we are going to be able to do on the road.” The Ravens will play three of their next four games away from M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens have tried to institute more of a no-huddle, high-flying passing offense this season. It has been successful at home in high-scoring wins over Cincinnati, New England and Dallas, but hasn’t traveled well.
“When you push the envelope like we are pushing it a little bit, sometimes it pushes back,” Harbaugh said. “And, to me, that is part of the growth process. You try to do that as much as you can by winning games and figure that stuff out. We did it this game by, obviously, not performing well at all. So, I like to think we learned a lot in that game.”
There are also a number of defensive problems to correct – something new for Baltimore’s typically stingy unit. The Ravens have given up an average of 400 yards per game, ranking 26th in the league. Their 23 points allowed per game are tied for 17th.
Harbaugh said the defensive line isn’t where it has been in the past, when the Ravens could put seven men in the box and stop the run.
He said there won’t be any drastic defensive scheme or personnel changes, but floated out the idea of using some younger players more, perhaps such as defensive tackle
Harbaugh said the Ravens’ defensive struggles could impact their offensive philosophy.
On one hand, the offense could slow down the game by running the ball more with the hope of limiting opponent’s possessions and thus taking some of the pressure off the defense. On the other, it could try to put up as many points as fast as possible to win shootouts.
“That’s something that we probably have to look at and kind of get a grip on,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something that I have to make some good decisions about.”
Harbaugh’s family is getting away to Gettysburg, Pa., this weekend. But before that, there’s plenty of work to do in Baltimore following the worst loss (in terms of point differential) during the Harbaugh era.
Still, Harbaugh reminded reporters that the team is still 5-2 and in control of the AFC North.
“Let’s get in the laboratory for three days here as coaches, and let’s figure out the things that we feel like we can do the best in [the Week 9 Cleveland] game and then for the next nine games to be the best,” Harbaugh said.