Bounce Back From Chargers Loss Started With Team Meeting
A week ago Tuesday (Dec. 2), John Harbaugh stood in front of the Ravens in the team meeting room at the Under Armour Performance Center. He was addressing the players for the first time since the gut-wrenching 34-33 loss to the Chargers.
"That was a painful loss. This one really hurt. We did all the things we needed to do to win. We also did the things that cost us the win," Harbaugh said. "I'll be honest with you. The loss made me sick to my stomach. I sat for 20 minutes by myself with my head in my hands after that game. I know some of you felt the same. We all fought our tails off. We had it in the palms of our hands."
"If not for one moment, one call or one play, we could have won," the head coach continued. "Other than prepare for the Dolphins, that's all I've thought about for two days. 'What could I have done better? What decision could I have made to help us win?' That's the way it's supposed to be. It's called accountability. I know all of you have been thinking the same way," he said with emphasis.
"That loss is supposed to hurt. If it didn't hurt, who would we be? … So, I'm pulling myself out of the malaise, the funk I've been in. Let's all pull ourselves out of it, and let's roll. Let's roll right into Sunday. Let's knock the Dolphins out of their own stadium. Let's go be us! Let's be really good and take it from them. Let's go to work," Harbs exclaimed.
What It Took To Get Here
One part of the emphasis Coach Harbaugh made to the team after the loss to San Diego was a reminder of all the hard work the players had completed since first coming together for the offseason program last March. "Everything you've done to get here. All that work. And, there will be more this offseason, and there will be weightlifting, and there will be OTAs. There will be minicamp and work on your own. There will be training camp and the preseason games – fighting to make the team. There will be the opening game, the early part of the season, the first quarter, the second and third quarters (of the season).
"All to do what? All to get us right back here where we are right now," Harbaugh spoke, holding the team's attention. "Do you understand what I'm saying? It took a lot for us to be here – with an opportunity. We're in the fight. And, we'll just continue fighting our tails off and see where it takes us. We clean up our mistakes, and we go to Miami with courage and strength. Be strong and courageous.
"We are going down to Miami to kick their tails. We have an opportunity to get the playoffs. None of these teams are better than us. Let's go prove it!"
This was not a fire and brimstone, win-one-for-Gipper speech. But, he had the team's attention. He humbled himself. He talked of the malaise he had experienced. He told them of how he questioned himself.
He didn't point fingers.
"We're used to getting through adversity here," Joe Flacco said on Wednesday. "I think it starts with John (Harbaugh) and the attitude he brings into the team meeting room after a loss – even every day. It starts with him and filters through the rest of us. We've fought through a lot and continue to come back. That's a credit to the kind of guys we have, but I think it definitely starts with the attitude John has about facing adversity."
Flacco continued his salute to Harbs: "He gives us guidance early in the week, on a Tuesday after a loss. It's guidance on how to handle things and get ready for what's next. We can follow his lead. He gets us back, and he has been doing a really good job of that since we started (in 2008)."
Canty Steps Up
One of the veterans who played very well in Sunday's victory in Miami is defensive end Chris Canty. When Harbs was making his post-San Diego-loss speech to the team, he noticed Canty nodding in agreement. The two had breakfast the following morning (Wednesday, Dec. 3).
John told Chris that he was going to be a team captain that week and asked him if he'd like to say something to the team later that day after practice. Canty said he would prefer to talk later in the week. The 6-foot-7, 318-pound defensive lineman spoke to the Ravens at our hotel in Hollywood, Fla. on Saturday at 9:10 p.m.
"This is my 10th year in the league, and I've learned some things," Canty started. "The stakes get higher; the games get bigger in December. We're not one of those teams where players are thinking about shipping their cars to another place in December. We've earned the right for our games to mean something. 'Harbs' talked about it earlier in the week – about all the hard work we've done to get here: weightlifting, minicamp, training camp, those double-downs (more plays for all players during camp). We have to make our minds up that we want to be champions, and it starts tomorrow."
Canty then reminded his teammates about the 2011 New York Giants, a team Chris helped win the Super Bowl. "We were 7-7 going into our last two games, and one of our leaders stood up and said he was all in. Everybody was making up their minds to ride for one another and do everything they could to help the team win. Fellas, we have everything it takes to get where we want to go. Make a commitment to yourself and the brothers on this team. Let's do this, and let's start tomorrow."
Most of you remember that Giants team. New York made the playoffs with a 9-7 record and ended up playing the heavily favored 15-3 Patriots in the Super Bowl. The underdog Giants won, 21-17.
*The New York Times *Analysis
That brings me to a piece written by The *New York Times' *Chase Stuart this past Tuesday. Stuart wrote that the "cream is rising to the top in the NFL," and he featured the Ravens. "The Ravens are the only team that ranks in the top quarter of the league in both points scored and points allowed. On offense, the Ravens rank in the Top 10 in points scored, yards and turnovers.
"Defensively, the Ravens rank sixth in points allowed. But Baltimore's best unit, for the third-straight year, is special teams. Baltimore is narrowly behind the Eagles for best in the NFL (according to 'Football Outsiders.')"
Stuart finished by reminding all about our close losses: "Baltimore has lost three leads in the fourth quarter this year. … The rest of the NFL may discover that the Seahawks are not the only recent Super Bowl champion rounding into playoff form."
I like the sound of that! But, we first have to take care of the most important game we play – this one on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium against Jacksonville. Let's beat the Jags!
Talk with you next week,