The Ravens are 6-2, but they have areas in need of improvement to carry on that success.
With a 6-2 record, the Ravens sit atop the division and have the second-best mark in the AFC. The strong start has them in good position to challenge for another AFC North crown and to make a playoff run for the fifth straight season.
But the Ravens have a brutal schedule the second half of the season, and Head Coach John Harbaugh said that his group has to improve if they are going to carry on the success of the first eight games.
"We’re not as good a football team right now as we intend to be or as we need to be,” Harbaugh said during Monday’s press conference. "We have a good record. We’re very pleased with where we’re at. I’m proud of our guys.”
As the Ravens now head into the second half of the season, the road gets even tougher.
They still have to play the Steelers twice, face off with the Manning brothers in back-to-back weeks and head to San Diego to play a dangerous Chargers team. The combined schedule of teams in the second half of the season is 34-32, compared to a 26-39 mark for opponents in the first half.
Harbaugh stressed that the Ravens need to improve in a number of areas – running the ball consistently, converting on third downs and tightening up the run defense – "or we’re not going to be 6-2 in the second half.”
"We need to be better at all those things,” Harbaugh said. "We need to be better on third downs. We need to run the ball more consistently. We need to protect our quarterback more consistently. We need to throw and catch better. That’s just on the offensive side.”
The Ravens are coming off a 25-15 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, and like several other games this season, the win didn’t come pretty.
The Ravens went 30 minutes without a first down and didn’t gain a single yard in the third quarter. Browns running back Trent Richardson rushed for more than 100 yards. They had self-inflicted mistakes like drops and personal foul penalties.
The Ravens were still able to pull off a gritty victory, which Harbaugh emphasized can never go undervalued.
But now the Browns’ game is in the rearview mirror and the Ravens are focused on cleaning up the mistakes that have some pundits questioning their legitimacy atop the AFC North.
"We’re going to have to play better,” Harbaugh said. "That’s our charge. That’s our responsibility. We have to go to work on that and that’s what we intend to do."