Ravens looking for rare road win

OWINGS MILLS -- The road has exposed the Baltimore Ravens in cruel and unforgiving fashion. Each of their last four business trips began with ambition and ended with disappointment. An inability to score offensively was insurmountable in each defeat.

For the Ravens (1-2) to right their season Sunday against the Detroit Lions (1-2) at Ford Field, they'll need to reverse this trend of failure on the road. It has been 11 months since the Ravens last won away from the confines of M&T Bank Stadium with an overtime win over the New York Jets in the Meadowlands.

"Good teams are good on the road," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, whose team averaged only 7 ½ points in losing 24-3 to the New England Patriots, 20-10 to the Indianapolis Colts and 20-7 to the Pittsburgh Steelers last year followed by a 25-10 loss this season to the Tennessee Titans. "Bad teams are not good on the road. You have to win on the road in this league, and it's a hard thing to do.

"It's a mindset about how you conduct your week, how you conduct yourself in the city that you're going to, but you aren't going anywhere unless you have a positive record on the road."

Five years ago was the last time the Ravens had a winning mark on the road. They won the Super Bowl, going 6-2 away from home.

"Anytime you play anybody in an away stadium, you have to go in there with an ‘us against the world' mentality," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said.

With the Ravens' current state of affairs after opening the season with consecutive losses, no one has wasted conversation this week about the fact that they're visiting the host city of Super Bowl XL. A team that began the season as a trendy Super Bowl pick has been installed as a 1-point underdog against the Lions.

"It has to be a business attitude, a business approach," said wide receiver Derrick Mason, a Detroit native who dismissed a question about whether the team is discussing its Super Bowl aspirations. "We need to go down there, no-nonsense, and pay attention to detail and come out and start fast. We've got to come out and basically give it to them right at the punch. If you let those guys get going, it's going to be a long day."

Both football teams have been incapable of generating points. The Ravens have the 31st-ranked scoring offense, averaging 10 points. The Lions rank 29th, averaging 12 points, but won their only game at home against the Green Bay Packers.

All three of the Ravens' touchdowns have come after halftime, another trend they want to reverse.

"The most important thing right now is being able to take the crowd out of the game and to get the crowd to go against their team," quarterback Anthony Wright said. "Obviously, we want to go out and put up as many points as fast as we can and make a statement."

One week removed from a 13-3 win over the New York Jets where the Ravens exploited former third-string quarterback Brooks Bollinger, there has been little to no bravado emanating from the team's training complex at One Winning Drive.

"We can't ride around on a white horse thinking we accomplished something tremendous," nickel back Deion Sanders said. "We must play the type of football we're capable of playing."

Defensively, the Ravens are hoping to prey upon embattled Lions quarterback Joey Harrington, the second-worst rated passer in the NFL (57.3) who completes only 53.3 percent of his passes. He has thrown five interceptions and only three touchdowns despite the presence of talented wide receivers in Roy Williams and Mike Williams.

Baltimore has the top-ranked defense in the AFC, but has only one turnover on a forced fumble.

Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed is especially hungry for an interception. He has only one pass deflection after intercepting nine passes last season and being named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Quarterbacks and offensive coordinators have consciously avoided Reed in the middle of the field.

"I'm sure they're probably looking out for me, but you just have to play the game," said Reed, who has 21 career interceptions. "The ball is going to come to me sooner or later, and when it does, they're going to pay for it. I just need to attack the ball a little more. I think those plays are going to come."

The Ravens have other reasons to hope for a rare road win today. The Lions are 2-14 in their last 16 games against AFC opponents.

Beginning with the Lions, the Ravens will play the first of four games against the NFC North. That division has a combined record of 3-11.

Tougher opponents than the Lions dot the Ravens' schedule, including four impending AFC North matchups against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals along with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That makes winning Sunday's encounter even more critical for the Ravens, and it's likely they'll stick with their profile of a hard-nosed running game and a stingy defense.

Whether it's pretty or ugly, a win is all the Ravens covet. It's what their business demands.

"In this business, the only thing that counts is getting W's," Lewis said. "Stats are one thing and championships are totally different. If we're trying to get back to the Promised Land, there's a certain formula we're sticking to, hands down."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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