After three straight road games, the Ravens (4-2) are in solid position, tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for first place in the AFC North.
The Ravens will play four of their next five games at home. It’s a chance to build momentum if they can protect home turf.
“We’re in a good place, not as good as we could be, but you can’t look back and lament that,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re happy to be where we’re at, but you’ve got to make the most of it.”
Returning to M&T Bank Stadium does not guarantee success for the Ravens. Their next four opponents all have winning records.
The Ravens host the New Orleans Saints (4-1) Sunday, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees. Then after a road game against the Carolina Panthers (4-2), the Ravens will return home to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1), Bengals (4-2), and Oakland Raiders (1-5).
If the Ravens are going to win the AFC North, they need to take advantage of this upcoming stretch of home games. Harbaugh wants Sunday’s impressive 21-0 shutout over the Tennessee Titans to be a springboard for consistent performance. The Ravens could easily be 5-1 right now if not for a disappointing overtime loss at Cleveland in Week 5.
“Like Terrell Suggs said in the locker room last night, winning a game like that (at Tennessee) on the road doesn’t mean nearly as much if you can’t follow it up. You’ve got to back it up with another win,” Harbaugh said.
“What you need to do in the NFL is stack wins. You need to find a way to get on a roll. If we can stack a win on top of that win, then it really starts to mean something. But it’s a huge challenge whether you’re on the road or at home, playing against the Saints.”
Harbaugh Pleased With Bradley Bozeman’s Debut at Left Guard
Bradley Bozeman, a sixth-round draft pick from Alabama, stepped in and finished Sunday’s game at left guard after starter Alex Lewis suffered a neck injury. It was Bozeman’s first action of the season, and Harbaugh was pleased after watching the tape.
“He did a good job, was solid. He really stepped up and played solidly,” Harbaugh said.
Rookie tackle Orlando Brown Jr. also saw some snaps in extra lineman formations. If Lewis cannot play Sunday, Bozeman could get the start, or the Ravens could opt to start Brown at right tackle and move James Hurst to left guard. Either way, it sounded as if Harbaugh thought Bozeman and Brown responded well to game action.
“I thought Boze played really well, did a good job, solid,” Harbaugh said. “And Orlando was very physical with his snaps. Both of those guys played well.”
Recent Numbers by John Brown, TE’s Not a Concern
Over his last two games, Ravens wide receiver John Brown has caught just six passes for 86 yards, including just two catches for 28 yards in Tennessee. Ravens tight ends have also been quieter recently in the passing game, with Mark Andrews (two catches, 20 yards) leading the tight ends in receiving yards both Sunday and in Week 5 (one catch, 16 yards).
Opponents have shifted more double-coverage toward Brown, trying to limit the big plays he was producing earlier in the season. However, that strategy has created opportunities for others wideouts like Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead IV. Harbaugh is not concerned about Brown’s recent drop in production, and also believes the tight ends will become more involved.
“From a numbers standpoint, you don’t really worry too much about that from one game to the next.” Harbaugh said. “Certainly, if it goes on for a number of weeks, you start to wonder why that’s happening. But if you look at the tape, the tight ends played really well, Smoke played really well. He made a huge catch on that slot seam to convert for us when he was tightly covered. I’m pretty sure he’s going to have some big games in the future, and I feel that way about our tight ends too. Mark Andrews made a couple big catches for us, conversion catches, so we’ll keep building on that.”
Joe Flacco Leading the League in Batted Balls
According to Harbaugh, Joe Flacco has thrown 11 passes that have been battled away at the line of scrimmage this season, leading all NFL quarterbacks.
Whether it’s the offensive line allowing too much penetration, Flacco staring down a receiver or taking an unnecessary risk, or a defensive lineman making an athletic play, Harbaugh wants the frequency to come down.
“Too many,” Harbaugh said. “I know we lead the league in batted balls. I think we have 11 now, and that’s something that’s a problem, because those are opportunities. A lot of times, those guys are open, and those are chances to complete passes. That’s something that we’ve been working on the last couple of weeks. We still haven’t cleaned it up the way we want to, and we’re not happy about it. We need to clean that up.”
When a reporter followed up asking if it’s particularly surprising given Flacco’s 6-foot-6 size, Harbaugh pointed to 6-foot-0 Drew Brees.
“Drew Brees, I don’t think, has a batted pass yet this year, to make that contrast,” Harbaugh said. “So it’s probably not as much about [height] as it is about other issues. It’s always a team effort.”