The Ravens did not get any favors from the schedule makers in the first month of the season.
Baltimore had to play four games in 18 days – more than any other team in the NFL to open the season – including three in primetime. The stretch was a grind, but the Ravens came out of it with a 3-1 record and now sit atop the AFC North after a quarter of the season.
"I am really proud of our coaches and our players for what they accomplished in the last 18 days," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Friday.
The Ravens pulled off victories over division rivals Cincinnati and Cleveland, and the defending AFC champion New England Patriots. Their one loss came to the Philadelphia Eagles by one point in a hostile road environment.
"It wasn't exactly the way we wanted it, but it's still a good way to come out," linebacker Jameel McClain said. "Now it's time to finish the next quarter of the season."
During the challenging start to the season, the Ravens regularly referenced a mantra they adopted early in training camp: "embrace the grind."
The message came from Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, who challenged his teammates with that attitude after a practice in the mid-summer heat. The team had "embrace the grind" t-shirts printed, and Harbaugh referenced Yanda's words when he reflected on the accomplishment of his team through the first four games.
"What we've done through the first four weeks of the season, it was a grind," Harbaugh said. "Football is a grind a little bit anyway. This was a real grind."
Part of the challenge through the first month was having three night games. The Ravens are scheduled to play only one more night game the rest of the season, coming in Week 11 in Pittsburgh.
Playing in primetime has its benefits, and fortunately for the Ravens all of their primetime matchups were at M&T Bank Stadium where a raucous crowd could make a difference.
The difficulty, however, was that playing night games gave the Ravens less time each week to prepare for their upcoming opponents.
"You have to play in primetime, which are high-intensity games," Harbaugh said. "You don't get much rest, and you have to bounce back. We had short weeks twice coming off those games, and then to maintain that intensity in the building in terms of rehab, in terms of just getting your rest, in terms of getting in the weight room and taking care of business, in terms of the preparation that it takes, both on the field and in the classroom, our guys deserve a lot of credit for it."
The Ravens now get to enjoy the benefits of a Thursday night game, as the players have the weekend off before returning to work Monday to begin preparations for the Kansas City Chiefs.
"We weren't perfect by any stretch. There are plenty of blemishes that we need to work on in all three phases," Harbaugh said. "They are up for a well-deserved rest right now, and we'll start building again on Monday."