In his opening statement after Thursday night's preseason finale, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh twice mentioned how proud he is of his team for playing "winning football."
The Ravens finished their sixth undefeated preseason with a 23-14 victory in New Orleans.
It's just the preseason, but after the Ravens posted their worst record (5-11) during Harbaugh's tenure, it's clear that getting accustomed to being on the right side of the scoreboard was important.
"You always want to win," Harbaugh said. "I think there is great value in winning."
The last three times the Ravens went undefeated in the preseason were in 2000, 2009 and 2014. Baltimore won the Super Bowl in 2000 and advanced to the divisional round the two other seasons. In the other two undefeated preseasons (1998 and 1999), the Ravens missed the playoffs.
The Ravens were 1-3 in last year's preseason. They lost their final three games heading into the regular season, then dropped six of the first seven regular-season games.
There's not a direct correlation, but the Ravens do believe that preseason results can breed success.
"You want to establish the fact that you learn how to win football games," Harbaugh said. "Now, again, they don't count them going forward. They're in the books. But our players should be proud of that."
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and others said they wanted to erase last year's memories, and a* *happy locker rooms helps with that. Quarterback Joe Flacco wanted the team to build momentum in the preseason.
"Obviously, it is not as important as a regular-season game, but I think for our confidence as a team – and especially some of the young guys we have out here – to just get them used to winning football, it is pretty important," Flacco said.
Harbaugh, who last week said he would be in favor of eliminating preseason games altogether, still coached the preseason with the regular season in mind. For example, the Ravens only gave Flacco one quarter of action as he returned from knee surgery. Harbaugh rested nearly every starter Thursday.
"We didn't do anything extra special to win any games in the preseason," Harbaugh said. "We didn't play our starters longer than other people. As a matter of fact, we played them less than other people in every game."
The fact that the Ravens still won all four games, in part, speaks to their depth and young talent. The backups, largely making up rookies or other growing players, often bested the opponents opposite them this preseason. That's a change from last year.
Bubble players such as quarterback Josh Johnson and wide receiver Jeremy Butler and rookies such as defensive tackle Michael Pierce and outside linebacker Matthew Judon were all key players in delivering wins.
Some of those players will likely be called into action this year when the Ravens have injuries. So the fact that they played well in the preseason is a good sign that they'll perform if called upon.
"Most of the credit [for wins] goes to those [second- and third-team] guys, and they earned them," Harbaugh said.