It could very well be a watershed moment for the Baltimore Ravens as they attempt to break their two-game slide this weekend in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Vikings. When the final whistle blows, the Ravens will have either created more doubts, or put them to bed.
After beginning the season 3-0 and being a near-unanimous Super Bowl contender in 2009, Baltimore’s much-maligned secondary has only gotten more heat after being victimized by the likes of Tom Brady and Carson Palmer. People are questioning the game-planning on both sides of the ball, and a few fans are even approaching panic mode.
But it’s easy to forget that this is a team that lost three in a row last season only to bounce back and advance to the conference title game. Head coach John Harbaugh’s team has bounced back from losses before, and played well on the road as well. They face both tasks on Sunday against Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson, standing tall at 5-0.
With a bye immediately afterward, the coaching staff will have time to make the adjustments necessary down the stretch. But the momentum from a victory would be huge heading into November. The schedule will only get more difficult, with games against Denver, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
All the problems from the last few weeks are connected, so it’s not preposterous to say that by fixing one issue, the rest will improve. Cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington need to play better, but they need help from the defensive line. There needs to be a more effective pass rush, which is where Terrell Suggs comes in. Limit the the time the quarterback has to throw, and the secondary will look better right away.
On the offensive side of the ball, it’s just a matter of finding the right rhythm. They were too pass happy against the Patriots, and too simplistic against the Bengals. Ray Rice is playing well and deserves every carry he gets, but Willis McGahee was a touchdown machine the first month of the season, while Le’Ron McClain went to the Pro Bowl last season. Cam Cameron needs to find the proper balance with all three backs, which will help Joe Flacco move the ball more effectively.
And of course, they need to cut down on penalties and turnovers.
Despite all the issues, the Ravens are still a team a few key plays away from being 5-0. And they know it. Maybe that will be enough to break through this slide. But it’s up to the head coach and his staff to instill that mentality.
On Harbaugh’s part, he’s not touching any questions about being in a “funk.” He knows better than that. The task at hand is the Viking. This time last year he was guiding his men through similar adversity. People had the same questions they do now: How will the Ravens adjust after to a losing streak?
It could be a defining moment for this team.