Ravens Must Change Momentum Before Bye


Even though others outside the organization may be thinking about it, the Ravens are blocking a two-game losing streak from their minds.

After all, anything less than supreme focus on the undefeated Minnesota Vikings could mean a once-spotless 3-0 record dropped to .500 just as the team enters its bye week.

Nobody wants the sour taste of defeat to carry over the entire mid-season break.

"It definitely [is hard], because you have nothing else to move on with," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "There's no other game to go to. We're just going to work hard this week and hopefully not have to worry about that bad taste."

The Ravens are not looking back at their recent slide, however. Streak or no streak, the team officially turned the page to Minnesota with Wednesday's practice after falling 17-14 last Sunday to the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.

Two weeks ago, it was a 27-21 defeat at the hands of the always-tough New England Patriots.

It's not hard to see why Baltimore has zeroed in on its next opponent.

"I hope our mentality isn't anything outside of getting ready to play the Minnesota Vikings," linebacker Ray Lewis stated. "You can worry about a two-game streak, or you can worry about your next opponent. The bottom line is there are a lot of teams sitting around 5-0. There are a lot of teams sitting around 3-2.

"The season is too long. We have to do what we've got to do. Our bye week will take care of our bye week, but right now we've got to deal with the Minnesota Vikings."

The road does not get any more forgiving after Minnesota.

A red-hot Denver Broncos (5-0) team comes to M&T Bank Stadium in Week 8, followed by a rematch with the Bengals in Cincinnati.

The Ravens believe each game is just as important as the next, but the roadbumps for the upcoming stretch are undeniable. Still, those thoughts come from outside the locker room.

"I think our attitude is the same," said center Matt Birk. "You've got to cut it loose, you can't play tight. You can't be worried about making mistakes. You go out there, you cut it loose. You don't judge what's going on out there, you just play. You make sure you're prepared and you play hard. And then at the end of the game, you look at the scoreboard and see how you did."

The Ravens travel to Minnesota for the first time in franchise history during the regular season at a time when the Vikings are playing inspired football.

Offensively, running back Adrian Peterson may be the NFL's best, and quarterback Brett Farve has ignited an aerial attack. The Vikings' defense is second in the league in takeaways and first in red zone defense. And, rookie Percy Harvin is a top-tier returner.

Meanwhile, the Ravens' pair of losses has caused pundits and fans alike to question perceived weaknesses, such as the run/pass ratio or secondary depth.

Birk keeps a more level head after only five games against opponents with a combined record of 10-14 (the Vikings' opening five foes are currently 7-17).

"It's a play here, a play there," Birk said. "That's the way it goes. Those games that come down to the end, we've had a chance to win we just haven't done it. We are the still same team as we were, and I think everybody feels that way.

"I don't feel good about losing two games in a row, but players still have confidence in coaches, coaches still have confidence in players. When you lose, your mistakes are a little more glaring and you pay a little more attention to detail and take care of those."

For now, the Ravens are concentrating of simply winning a game, not bucking a trend.

According to 13th-year veteran Derrick Mason, that mentality is dangerous.

"I don't deal on potential," Mason said. "I can't deal on potential. Potential will kill you. You know, we're going in, and we're going to prepare this week to go out there to Minnesota and win a ball game. And that's how we prepare each and every week. So our mind is not on potentially being 3-3 going into the bye. The mindset for us is to go down there and win a football game."

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