Road is unfriendly territory for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS -- It's emerging as one of the Baltimore Ravens' most disturbing trends in a season of downward spirals. Whenever the Ravens are away from Baltimore, calamity tends to strike and the losses mount.

Heading into Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, the Ravens have lost five road games in a row. Dating back to last season, Baltimore (2-3) has been outscored 124-47 in those road losses for an average losing margin of 15.2 points.

"If you're playing well, you'll win on the road," Ravens coach Brian Billick said "If you're not playing well, you don't win on the road. You can look at what we eat, when we leave, who the flight attendants are or what hotel we stay in.

"When you're playing well, that doesn't matter. When you're not playing well, that doesn't matter either. It's all about the preparation."

It's been a theater of the bizarre lately for the Ravens when they're out of town.

There was the blitzkrieg in Nashville last month, allowing six sacks and registering no rushing first downs in a 25-10 loss to the Titans.

There was the volcanic eruption in Detroit, including an embarrassing, franchise-record 21 penalties and two ejections in a 35-17 loss.

The Ravens last road win: Nov. 14 with a 20-17 overtime triumph over the Jets in the Meadowlands.

"We're going to get everybody's A-game on the road," linebacker Peter Boulware said "The fans will be cranked up and cheering. Everyone wants to see the Ravens go down. We have to go in there and fight and scratch and give it everything we have."

The road losses last season are mitigated slightly by the quality of the opposition.

The Ravens fell 24-3 to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots as Kyle Boller went 15 for 35 with an interception and a fumble in a torrential downpour.

In losing 20-10 to the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts, Boller completed only 19 of 40 passes and was intercepted twice.

In a 20-7 belt-whipping from the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the defense was absolutely pounded in surrendering 183 rushing yards on 42 carries.

"That's a pretty good order," Billick said. "We have not played well on the road these first two games. I don't know that it's symptomatic other than it's hard on the road to win."
A common thread to the road struggles: The Ravens rarely build a lead and typically abandon the running game, but are ill-suited to open up the passing game.

"I wasn't here last year, but I'm an optimist so I'm thinking that we have a chance to end this losing streak," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We had our opportunities this year, but we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. What we've got to do is go out and play mistake-free football.

"It's critical on the road that you don't turn the ball over and put yourself in bad position as an offense to have to drive the ball 90 yards because of penalties."

Turnovers have been a major issue in the two road losses this year.

In Detroit, quarterback Anthony Wright threw two crucial interceptions. Plus, fullback Ovie Mughelli and Mason both fumbled in Lions territory.

The Ravens have been outscored by a total of 27-10 in the first half of their two road losses.

"We have to start much faster," Wright said.

It won't be easy for Baltimore to even its record Sunday. The Bears have the third-ranked defense in the NFL and are 2-1 at home with 38-6 and 28-3 wins over Detroit and Minnesota.

"I'm thinking good thoughts, we're going to be all right," Mason said. "I think we're a good enough team where we're going to learn from our mistakes. I'm the type of guy where the cup is half-full."

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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