One quarter into his first regular season at the helm of the Ravens, and head coach John Harbaugh has learned a lot about his team.
Even after Sunday's 13-10 hard-fought loss to the Tennessee Titans – on a fourth-quarter comeback from 36-year-old quarterback Kerry Collins – Harbaugh draws many positives from Baltimore's opening 2-2 record.
While the outcome of the Ravens' two most-recent games haven't been exactly what he'd like, the coach sees a solid foundation.
"I'm encouraged by our football team in the sense that we have a tough, hard-nosed, clean, disciplined football team – guys that play football the right way, the Raven way," Harbaugh said in a Monday press conference. "And, we're building on that. I'm excited. I can't wait to play the next 12 games plus. I can't wait to see what this team becomes going forward because of the way they play – how they play – Raven football."
Harbaugh points to the Tennessee matchup, when a physical Titans team came to M&T Bank Stadium ready for a fight, as a shining example of how he wants the Ravens to compete.
Such intensity showed up throughout the game, when the Ravens refused to back down to their undefeated opponent, which sparked a few skirmishes.
Most notably, Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Ravens wideout Derrick Mason both received personal foul penalties in the third quarter. Finnegan, however, couldn't shake off the flag, and received an unnecessary roughness infraction four plays later, when he slammed into Willis McGahee out of bounds.
The 11-yard penalty moved Baltimore into the red zone and even drew a violent shove from Titans teammate Keith Bulluck.
Mason and the rest of the Ravens calmly went back to work and eventually scored a touchdown on Le'Ron McClain's 1-yard plunge.
"I was very proud of our football team and the way they grew throughout that football game in terms of keeping their composure," Harbuagh explained. "When you look at the tape, closely, you can see where our guys kept their composure really well.
"I thought they showed a lot of class, and I'm proud of the way they responded with the type of football game it was."
The Ravens even kept their cool in the fourth quarter when a roughing-the-passer penalty on Terrell Suggs – one that many reporters questioned after the game – canceled an incomplete pass on third down that would have quelled Tennessee's game-winning drive.
Suggs burst through the line and brushed Collins on what officials thought was his helmet. However, the hit came after a false start on Titans tackle Michael Roos, which would have ruled the action dead.
Officials were supposed to immediately whistle everyone to a halt, but since play continued and resulted in a 15-yard infraction, the 5-yard false start was nullified.
Harbaugh needed a dose of that Ravens composure when the media asked him about the call for the second consecutive day.
"You can't see any such effort on the tape," he diplomatically stated. "That's all I [can say]. You can't see anything on the tape."
For Harbaugh, not commenting on the officiating has nothing to do with fines handed down from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
In fact, the team is currently compiling tape of an incident where Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynewsworth roughly threw quarterback Joe Flacco to the ground in the second half. That film goes to the league's vice president of officiating, Mike Pereira, so coaches can move forward with the right teaching points.
"I don't care about a fine," Harbaugh stated. "I want to get to the bottom of it and find out what's right and find out how to coach our players as we go forward. The NFL does a nice job of giving you an avenue to do that.
"[Pereira] is great about looking at them and getting back to us and saying, 'This is how the officiating sees it.' A lot of times they'll tell you that the officiating was wrong, that they should have called it differently. Other times they'll say, 'This is why we call it that way by rule or this is why we call it that way by interpretation.' That's how we coach our guys, based on how the game's going to be officiated. We haven't heard back on that one yet, but we'll send it in. Absolutely."
With an intense schedule in the upcoming weeks, which includes five of the next six games on the road, the Ravens will need to continue to keep their heads about them.
Following the example of their determined head coach would be a good place to start.
"We don't talk about that," Harbaugh affirmed. "I think the NFL is a challenge whether you play at home or you play on the road. Our guys are very capable of winning on the road. We expect to go win every one of those football games when they come up, and that's the plan.
"Whatever time they say we're playing, we'll be there, and we'll be ready to go."