Last-place Ravens have many weaknesses to fix
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The Baltimore Ravens have plenty of flaws, and they're running out of time to fix them.
Two weeks ago, the Ravens were in first place in the AFC North. Now, after an embarrassing 43-23 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, they're in the cellar.
Baltimore (5-4) yielded four sacks, gained only 63 yards rushing and - worst of all - allowed Ben Roethlisberger to throw six touchdown passes.
With cornerback Jimmy Smith out with a sprained left foot, the Ravens surrendered 340 yards passing to a team they held without a touchdown earlier in the season.
Clearly, the secondary is a primary concern.
''I think guys have played OK at times, well other times and there have been a few bad plays out there,'' coach John Harbaugh said Monday.
Against the Steelers, it was mostly awful. The Ravens have already passed the midpoint of the season, and they still haven't perfected their communication on the back end of their defense.
"We had two plays which were coverage busts. We just were in the wrong spot, we weren't on the same page, we misplayed the coverage,'' Harbaugh said. ''And there were three other times where we just got beat physically. So those are bad things.''
Safety Terrence Brooks was a healthy inactive for the Ravens, who are still looking for the right combination in pass coverage.
''You want to play in that secondary? Step up in practice and play well and step in the game and make plays and be in the right spot,'' Harbaugh said. ''That's what we're looking for guys to do.''
Baltimore led 7-0 before committing two straight turnovers that set up two Pittsburgh touchdowns. Later, a 14-10 deficit became 29-10 when the Steelers scored on touchdown passes of 47 and 54 yards.
''Too many big plays by them, too many turnovers by us,'' Harbaugh lamented.
The Ravens were 5-2 before falling at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Now, they're in danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight season.
''Everybody has tough weeks,'' Harbaugh said. ''It's going to be a fight to the end. We just got to make sure we're in the fight. That starts with moving forward right now, this week, to the next game.''
The Ravens face Tennessee at home on Sunday. If they win that one, they'll head into their bye week with a 6-4 record.
''We just have to move forward and start winning football games again,'' quarterback Joe Flacco said. ''It starts this week.''
Baltimore must do a better job of protecting Flacco if it is going to make a run at the postseason. In addition to the four sacks, Flacco was rushed on several throws while operating behind an offensive front that had its hands full the entire night.
''It really wasn't a common theme. It was a number of things,'' Harbaugh said. ''We got beat 1-on-1 a couple of times, once or twice we didn't get to the hot receiver, once or twice we didn't make a throw or a catch or we were safe with the ball. It's collective. The theme is that we've got to handle pressure. We've got make people pay for it, run and pass. It's something that's going to be important for us to do.''
The good news for the Ravens is that they have already played all but one of their games within the AFC North, where every team is currently over .500. Four of Baltimore's final seven games are home, including matchups against Tennessee (2-6), Jacksonville (1-8) and the slumping San Diego Chargers.
There is still hope, regardless of the team's current shortcomings.
''We have a lot of plusses,'' Harbaugh insisted. ''It's not like we're sitting here without good players. Every team has weaknesses. Every team has things they have to scheme around and play around. We'll figure out how to do that.''
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