Baltimore Still Feeling Optimistic, Even After Three Heartbreaking Losses

Sam SnyderCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 18:  Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens rushes against the Minnesota Vikings during NFL action at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 18, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Ravens 33-31.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Ravens stand 3-3 going into their bye week. Obviously this isn't the ideal start the Ravens had hoped for. But you learn from mistakes, and you can't learn if you don't make mistakes. Obviously there are plenty of plays many players would like to take back, but they can't.

The only thing that they can do now is learn. It's something no one wants to do, because they don't want to lose, but you can't be a good team without struggling. The Ravens started 3-3 last year, with nearly the identical team of this year, but decimated with injuries, and finished 11-5.

Will the Ravens get criticized over this week and next? Yes. Will they get put down? Yes. Do they really care what others think? No. They never have, nor will they ever. There are plenty of reasons for optimism. First of all, they could be the Tennessee Titans, and second, they lost by a margin of 11 points in all three games combined, all because of careless mistakes.

Statistically they are still a very good team, record wise they are average, but play-wise, they are still elite. I'm not saying people should be drinking the Super Bowl contender Kool-Aid, but there is no good reason to be overly worried. The only real reason to worry is the teams that Baltimore plays next. They come off their bye week to face Denver.

Denver is a great team, as they are 5-0 for a reason, but they are not as complete a team as the Vikings. They have a suffocating defense, but lack the explosiveness on offense that Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, and the Vikings have. They are ranked eighth on offense, but they do not create the big plays that the Ravens have given up so much.

The Ravens torched the Vikings secondary, with Flacco throwing for 353 yards and two touchdowns, most coming in one quarter. He would have broken 400 had Derrick Mason dropped a perfect pass that would have gone for a touchdown .

The receivers, once heavily criticized, have allowed Joe Flacco to amass 1674 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Derrick Mason leads the team with 381 yards and three touchdowns. Wideouts Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington have 270 and 267 yards respectively.

Ray Rice is becoming one of the most dynamic backs in the league. Against Minnesota, Rice caught for 117 yards and became the first running back to catch for over 100 yards in franchise history. He also busted runs of 22 and 33 yards, both for touchdowns against a stout run defense.

The offense is not suspect, it is, dare I say it, the suspect in the Ravens 3-3 record. Specifically the pass defense. They allowed Brett Favre to throw for 263 yards and three touchdowns. The Ravens need to make something happen soon, or they are going to get themselves into trouble.

The Denver Broncos are a solid pass offense, but they aren't an elite passing team. Kyle Orton has passed for 1236 yards and seven touchdowns. The most important stat is that he has only one interception. Kyle Orton doesn't take risks.

Had this been last years defense, this game wouldn't have been close. The defense would have been dominant, but this isn't last years defense. Despite the ominous stats, the Ravens aren't worried. They have two weeks to address their problems. Whether it is getting new players or changing staff, it needs to be done.

How to fix the defense? I don't know, the problem is obviously the secondary, who's pitiful deep play defense cost the Ravens the game, and almost cost them the Chargers game. The easiest solution is to get larger cover corners, and keep Foxworth or Washington as nickel or dime back.

Ray Rice isn't too worried about the season, neither is the team itself. Every team struggles at one point, and they recognize that.

“It is frustrating,” Ray Rice said. “But at the same time, 3-3 going into a bye week is not always the worst thing in the world. I think we were in the same position last year, if I am not mistaken. I don’t like to compare this year’s team to last year’s team. One thing we are doing is establishing our identity."

Establishing an identity. That's what the Ravens are trying to do, and to do that, they need to topple a top program like Denver.