Head coach John Harbaugh isn't hiding from the mistakes the Ravens made in their 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In fact, he addressed them – both in-house and publicly – on Monday.
Cutting down on a season-high 11 penalties for 113 yards, including two that cancelled touchdowns, was his key message. The Ravens will certainly need to do so in order to defeat the Oakland Raiders this weekend and officially punch their postseason ticket.
"It's just been thoroughly evaluated, up-and-down, sideways, and at the same time, it's time to move on for us," Harbaugh said in his weekly news conference. "As a football team, we've got to move on. We've got to take the good and build on it, take the things that are causing us problems and eliminate them, or improve them, or whatever the case may be in every situation.
"We acknowledge what they are, we know what they are, they're pretty straight forward and we need to get them straightened out."
This came one day after Harbaugh was visibly frustrated with the way the Ravens, who came into the Steelers game as the NFL's second-most penalized team, littered Heinz Field with yellow flags, the ninth time all season that Baltimore earned at least eight penalties.
He was terse in his post-game comments, declining to talk about the penalties in general, just specific calls.
It wasn't that he was placing blame on the officials, however. Instead, Harbaugh positioned the mirror directly on his team.
"You hate to put a measuring stick on irritation, but it was irritating, and I think all of us felt that," he told media. "You know, I think you guys felt it. I felt that you guys felt it in the press conference last night. We played so well, we played too well, in so many ways for the outcome to be what it was. Why was the outcome what it was? Well, it was our doing. It was penalties, and basically, as you put it, missed opportunities.
"Those are things that we can fix, but we need to make a determination to change them. As a football team, coaches and players, recognize what they are. So many of those things, we felt we had a handle on, and so many penalty issues that have come up throughout the course of the year, we have gotten a handle on. But a couple ones came up yesterday that just shouldn't happen.
The Ravens actually did play well in many phases. Their defense essentially held Pittsburgh's high-powered aerial attack to only 238 net yards and sacked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. They marched up and down the field at times, especially running back Ray Rice, who tallied 141 rushing yards against the NFL's top run defense.
But, key infractions derailed the Ravens' bid for victory. So key, in fact, that former Indianapolis Colts coach and current NBC "Football Night in America" analyst Tony Dungy called them dumb decisions.
"To me, there are two kinds of penalties," said Harbaugh. "There are going to be penalties when you play aggressive, you play a game like this, they're going to call a hold here, they're going to call something there. In other words, when not good technique leads to being not in great position, and therefore you hold a guy, or something along those lines. And that's bad. That's our responsibility, and that came up in the game.
"The second one is when you make a choice in a critical situation; a late hit, a block in the back, those are black and white. It's tough, because it's moving fast, but it's a choice that you have to make, and I think that's what Tony is talking to. Those have got to be eliminated. That decision making has got to be better, and it has been for a number of games. It wasn't this game, and we need to get it corrected."
Both bit the Ravens.
"We do a great job as a receiving corps, if you watch our tape, of blocking downfield and springing Ray and our other backs for big runs," noted Harbaugh. "And we don't normally hold downfield. So that penalty on Kelley was a technique issue. Kelley knows it and he's got to get that corrected. But, all of our receivers have got to work through the technique aspect of downfield blocking so we're not grabbing people outside the pads because we're too high and we're not in a good football position."
Decision-making penalties came when Haloti Ngata hit a Steeler out of bounds blocking on a punt return, costing 15 yards, and Oniel Cousins pushed Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley after the whistle, taking the Ravens out of field goal range.
"We're an aggressive football team like any winning football team is," Harbaugh continued. "You're going to have some penalties. But to hit a guy when the play's over is just not smart, as Tony said. We call them foolish penalties. That's a decision. That's a choice. You fix that just like that. You make a decision that it's not going to happen. And we hold our players accountable for it, they hold themselves accountable for it and we make sure it doesn't happen anymore – as best we can."
Besides, the Ravens are preparing to face a formidable Raiders squad. In spite of their 5-10 record, four of those wins have come against playoff contenders Pittsburgh, Denver, Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
Harbaugh believes the intense atmosphere, coupled with the Ravens' perseverance through self-inflicted wounds, will serve the Ravens well in Oakland.
The Ravens must win in order to enter the playoff race. It's a simple equation, just like identifying the mistakes the Ravens need to correct.
Moving forward in Week 17, the Ravens will have to.
"I think in a high pressure game, like the Steelers game, this is great for us going into this next game that we're going to play, because it's going to be another high pressure game," the coach said. "In [the Raiders'] stadium, with all the history of this rivalry, I think that kind of put us in a position where we made some decisions that we shouldn't make.
"We've got to focus on that, learn from it, and get better from it."