The Baltimore Ravens (4-2) is not a nationally based, storied franchise in the NFL. Compared to the likes of the Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers (franchises that has been around for over 50 years), the Ravens are just infants looking forward in moving from breast milk to Stage 1 (or Stage 2 depending on how developed the child is) of baby food.
So, it’s safe to say that the Ravens have not yet earned the respect of the masses surrounding the great NFL because they have not paid their dues, better yet, have not learned how to crawl.
Even though the franchise has been around for 15 years, and have been victorious to many years, should the Ravens have earned the respect of a winner, by now?
Apparently not, well, not on a greater scale.
The Titans loss was bad, and the Ravens were questioned as a Super Bowl contender. When the Ravens loss to the Jaguars, football nation was shocked, and rightfully so.
Questions about the Ravens flood national sports talk shows the following morning of concern, not with care. Concerned about how far can this AFC North contending team can go in the postseason, yet with doubts of winning a championship.
It appears when teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots experience a bad loss, they are evaluated. Nevertheless, the Steelers and Patriots are not bashed by the media and continue to be considered as Super Bowl contenders who had a bad day.
When Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was confronted with this question, he said the observation was interesting.
“It’s an interesting observation. I have a lot of respect for our players,” said Harbaugh. “I think the Ravens fans have a lot of respect for this football team. That was a tough loss. We played bad on one side of the ball especially, and we didn’t play well enough on the other two sides to overcome that. We take it as a team loss. We’ll bounce back as a team–we’ll keep fighting."
“We have been here before,” he continued. “We have been here from one game to the next. We have been here in seasons where we have been counted out. That’s OK. I know our fans won’t count us out. Our players won’t count us out, and our coaches won’t count each other out. We’ll just go to work. We have to come back this Sunday, and we have to play. The main thing is, we have to look at this long, and we have to learn from it and get ready for Arizona at the same time. We have to figure out what we need to do. You can’t just say, ‘OK, we’re all set on defense,’ either."
“Our defensive players have to say, ‘We can get better. We have to get better,” he added. “We have to get a little bit better every single day.’ If we just keep doing that with our whole football team, that’s the formula. We know how to handle that – we have been here before. This is a tough league, and that was tough loss. But, we have a tough game coming up on Sunday.”
The Ravens are perceived as a club that does not handle their business against subpar teams. Record-wise, during the Harbaugh era in Baltimore, the Ravens were 19-3 against teams with sub-.500 records–their two losses this season against the, then 0-1, Titans and the 2-5 Jaguars and the 0-1 Cincinnati Bengals of Week 2 in 2010.
While the Ravens’ record is great against sub-.500 teams, other power teams in the NFL like the Packers, Steelers, Patriots, and the New Orleans Saints are outstanding as well versus inferior opponents. However, those power squads punish teams that are not good enough to compete against them consistently.
Clearly, the Ravens have the talent and coaching staff to be an elite team. The issue with the Ravens is that they do not man handle this inferior opponents consistently, given the illusion that Baltimore plays down or give less of an effort against poor clubs.
“You just have to. So, how we win? We’re just going to go try to play as well as we can possibly play and try to win the game,” said Harbaugh. “That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Against the Arizona Cardinals, who are 1-5, the Ravens should want to dominate Sunday to help restore confidence in their fans, the media and in the team.
“I haven’t seen [any concern], under any circumstances so far this season, because we have had adversity throughout,” said Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. “You have to be able to handle some success, which I think our guys did after the first week, and then move through the second week – a lot of different little things – but I don’t worry about any of our guys. The thing is, I want to make sure they know too that you are not calling ‘shot play’ from six inches from the goal line to get a 99-yard play because you don’t have confidence in your guys. I think that play, I know for me, shows the confidence I have in our guys."
“I am not wavering in the confidence in the kind of men I’ve got on offense and our staff,” he continued. “We just have to play better and execute better. I think Ray [Rice] has said it: Ray Rice has said a number of times, when we take the fundamentals, and we take this offense, and we execute it, it looks the way we all want it to look – it looks aggressive. It looks like we know what we’re doing. When we go out, and we don’t execute, it looks like we weren’t prepared for the game."
“We were prepared for the game, but obviously not well enough, and we have to execute better, and it starts with executing better against Arizona,” he added. “Confidence? No worries about our guys’ confidence–young guys or veteran guys.”
A 62-7 output would be great for the Ravens, similar to the Saints beat down of the Indianapolis Colts on October 23.
The Ravens are recognized as a good team, but their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performances, mainly offensively, will never allow them to be respected on the grand stage. The Ravens have a Super Bowl, elite defense and their special teams, in terms of kicking and punting, are among the best in the NFL.
It’s the team’s offensive output, which is up and down, and no, it’s not all on quarterback Joe Flacco’s fault. Before each contest, the question is–which Ravens offense will show up? Because of the shaky offense, as a whole, the Ravens have no consistency.
Against solid opponents, the Ravens want to be aggressive offensively to prove a point. Against subpar teams, Baltimore’s offense wants to be conservative and play a guessing game.
The loss Monday night to the Jaguars is more than having a bad day for the Ravens. It is the repeated disappointment in not winning and not winning in dominating fashion against subpar talented teams.
If the Ravens only played good teams, the media and Baltimore fans would be confidence knowing that, the purple and black would play their best, and oftentimes win.
The Ravens will say a win is a win, which is true, but perception is important. Consequently, the Ravens must be the same all the times against each opponent–an aggressive, bruising, power team with the capability of connecting on the big play.
Until the Ravens are consistent in their approach to each game, with an aggressive mindset proving that they are a top-tier team against all opponents among the masses, they will continue to be that whiney baby looking for a pacifier, thinking they can run with the big boys.
Barry Barnes is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.