Road Tested, Ravens Approved

4bd3e9d9deb34c98b08e99620639f27e.jpg


The last time the Ravens stopped by Dolphin Stadium, purple and black didn't just dot the stands - they were more like big splashes of color.

Baltimore won that contest 27-13 to the delight of the many fans, friends and family in attendance, who at times were louder than the sparse set of Miami Dolphins supporters.

And while the Ravens don't expect the same massive support this Sunday when they begin their playoff push against the Dolphins, playing in a hostile environment has not been a problem for them all season.

For a team that had a history of road woes in the past, the Ravens have more than made up for their troubles this year. Through an 11-5 campaign, Baltimore has gone 5-3 away from M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens' offense has performed even better in those situations, averaging 342.0 yards per game in a foreign atmosphere and 294.1 yards per contest in Charm City.

A main driver of that success is rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. He has thrown 10 touchdowns to only five interceptions, completing 64.5 percent of his attempts and posting a 91.7 passer rating (third-best in the NFL) away from home.

But head coach John Harbaugh could not find any explanation for the stoic first-round draft pick's accomplishments.

"You probably have to look at every game and just see the things he did well from one game to the next," Harbaugh said. "We don't really look at it road or home. We just look at it play by play, series by series. You can evaluate it any way you want, but overall he's played well all year."

Still, there are many other players that have contributed to the stellar road run.

Wideout Mark Clayton posted a career-high 164 receiving yards on five catches, adding a 32-yard touchdown pass at Cincinnati earlier this year.

More than half of receiver Derrick Mason's team-leading 80 catches (51) have occurred on the road.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata's only two interceptions this season came outside of Baltimore.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs also took back two picks for scores to quiet unfriendly crowds at Cleveland and Miami.

For the defense, such library-like conditions offer a stark contrast to the bombastic crowds M&T Bank Stadium regularly draws.

"Defensively, we like playing on the road because we can hear," said linebacker Ray Lewis, who has averaged 10.5 tackles on the road in 2008. "When we're playing in Baltimore, we can't hear, so it's different. But going on the road is just a different mentality. You're not home. You're not going through a lot of things that you go [through] when you're home.

"You just go, and you realize it's just you and your teammates. It gives you a little more focus when you do play on the road."

As Lewis attests, the team mentality runs through the entire locker room, from offense, defense and special teams. When playing in front of those fans rooting against their good fortune, the Ravens are almost even more inspired to rally with an "us against them" mentality.

"The guys understand that this is a business trip," explained wideout Derrick Mason. "It's not leisure. We're not going down there to enjoy the sights and the weather. We're going down there [to play football]. We've been able to go places and buckle down and concentrate and focus on the task at hand.

"The fans here are great in Baltimore, but on the road it's a little bit different because there's only 53 of us plus the coaches, and that's all we have to lean on. When the games are close in the fourth quarter, we can't lean on the crowd. We've got to lean on ourselves. And we've done a good job at that."

The last time Baltimore contended in a playoff tilt on the road, it was seven years ago, when it beat the Dolphins 20-3 on Jan. 13, 2002, and then lost 27-10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers one week later.

As the AFC's sixth playoff seed, the Ravens now face a straight run of road contests en route to the Super Bowl.

So, it's not as if the Ravens wouldn't love hosting games each weekend. But with their collective attitude, they are confident in taking their show to different venues - no matter what colors fill the stadium.

"You may have some people in the stands cheering for you, and we hope we do, but that's 20,000 compared to 40,000 or 50,000," said right tackle Willie Anderson. "You pretty much have to go in there with the 'us against them' mentality, and everyone has to do their job.

"It's communication, technique and being keen on point. You have to expect that the crowd and the referees are not going to be on your side. With that mentality, it raises your focus that much higher."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising