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John Harbaugh Expects Stronger Second Half

Posted Oct 30, 2012

John Harbaugh said he’s excited by the conversations and judgments made during the bye.

Diagnosing the Ravens’ problems over their first seven games isn’t simple, and they aren’t fixable with a one-size-fits-all Band-Aid.

"If it was one key to the whole thing, it’d be easy – anybody could pinpoint it,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

The Ravens coaches and some players rolled up their sleeves and dug into those issues during their bye week with detailed film study, conversations and trend studies.

And the solutions they came up with left Harbaugh feeling good about where the team is headed in the second half of the regular season.

Baltimore is still atop the AFC North at 5-2. But their bye-week improvements will need to work if they’re going to hold off the charging Pittsburgh Steelers, who are now just one game back.

"We had some great discussions. We had some great study watching the tape. Guys did some great studies looking at numbers and things like that,” Harbaugh said.

"In the end, what you try to do is make good counsel then make wise solid judgments about what makes us our best as we move forward. I am really excited about that – I really am. The proof will be in the pudding.”

The Ravens entered the bye with problems "across the board,” Harbaugh said.

Of particular concern – especially with three of the next four games on the road starting this Sunday in Cleveland – is the offense struggling away from M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens have averaged just 15 points per game on the road compared to 32.3 at home.

Players have suggested that momentum is a large factor in the road woes, and Harbaugh took a hard look at that over the bye. He said the team is doing some studies, even though they’re not expecting earth-shattering results.

"It’s harder for us on the road – for some reason – when things aren’t going well to pull ourselves out of it,” Harbaugh said, adding that it’s a problem that dates back to last year.

Perhaps the more difficult issue to nail down is what’s wrong on defense and how to correct it. While the offense has played well at times, the defense has given up big yardage week after week.

The unit is allowing too many yards via the ground, where it ranks 30th in the NFL (14.9 yards per game) and via the air, where it ranks 24th (257.1).

The Ravens are also dealing with the aftermath of injuries suffered by linebacker Ray Lewis (triceps), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee, shoulder) and safety Ed Reed (shoulder).

Despite all that, the Ravens are tasked with getting better down the stretch. They’re confident they can do so because they’ve done it in past years.

Baltimore has compiled a 27-10 record in November, December and January regular-season games during Harbaugh’s tenure. That includes back-to-back seasons with a 7-2 record in the final three months of regular-season games.

That has been a major reason why Baltimore has gone to the playoffs for [add] four straight years.

"We have gotten better every single year in the second half of the season since we’ve been here,” Harbaugh said. "That’s been something that has been a strength for the Ravens. I expect it to be a strength for us going forward.”

Part of that can be attributed to changes made during the bye or as the season progresses. It’s also partly because the Ravens have the pieces to win once the weather turns cold.

The Ravens have frequently relied more on Ray Rice and their run game down the stretch. They also have a strong-armed quarterback with big hands who is accustomed to throwing in adverse conditions. He did it despite strong winds and rain in Cleveland last year.

"If you play in the AFC North, you play in the North, you play in outdoor stadiums – you have to be built for that,” Harbaugh said. "That’s something that we try to take into account when we draft players, when we build our schemes in, and it’s going to be important moving forward."

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