Ravens' shortcomings apparent during bye

OWINGS MILLS -- It's not a mystery why the Baltimore Ravens have lost three consecutive football games heading into their bye week.   Eleven points have separated the Ravens (3-3) from a potential undefeated record, and the shortcomings have been glaringly obvious.

That's a big checkmark to all of them as well as a tendency to struggle at times against better competition.

The Ravens are 0-3 against the Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots, teams with a combined record of 14-4.

And they're 3-0 against the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and the Cleveland Browns, teams with a combined record of 4-13.

"I think we're not where we want to be as a team," veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "Considering we're 3-3, but also we're not 0-6 or 2-4 or worse than that. We would rather be 6-0 or 5-1 or whatever the case may be, but we're sitting right where we're at. We're disappointed in some aspects.

"In some aspects with the record we have, we understand why we have it. Three plays and we could be potentially 6-0. So, do we feel good about it? No, but we're going to move forward and continue to prepare and rest this weekend come back and give it a go against Denver."

Following the Ravens' last-second 33-31 loss to the Vikings, Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced a schedule for this week where players had meetings and practice Tuesday and today before being given time off for the rest of the week until returning to work next Monday.

It's a modified working vacation where the players have a mix of free time and plenty of opportunities to analyze what's working and what's not.

"When you do lose, it just magnifies those things not only for everybody else out there, but in your own head," tight end Todd Heap said. "We know we've got a lot to work on, but, if we win the last game, we probably have those same things we need to work on. We know we've got to get better. We know what it's going to take, and that we've got a lot of guys who are willing to put the work in and get it done."

"I think we came in with that mindset in our bye week thinking, 'Let's review everything we've gone over. Everybody review what you did yourself. Analyze your own job and what you're doing out on the field.' That's what we've got to do this week, really put the magnifying glass on ourselves."

For the most part, that means the defense could stand for a lot of improvement.

The Ravens rank 17th in total defense, 22nd in passing defense.

"We'll be fine," strong safety Dawan Landry said. "This bye is definitely going to help us a lot."

Offensively, it's a different story altogether.

The Ravens rank seventh in total offense, averaging 393.2 yards and 28.2 points per contest.

Heap isn't too interested in doing anything beyond focusing on the Broncos rather than trying to analyze the Ravens' prospects for the remainder of the season.

It's a single-minded approach for the Ravens as they're one game behind the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.

"Right now is not the time to make projections," Heap said. "Right now is the time to focus on our next game. We can't really look forward. We've got to make sure we live for right now. We don't have a lot of room for error right now."

Major bright spots on offense include quarterback Joe Flacco, who passed for a career-high 385 yards against the Vikings, and running back Ray Rice, who leads the NFL with 766 total yards from scrimmage.

"It definitely feels good to know that your hard work is paying off," Rice said. "Once I get the ball in my hand, I just feel like I'm able to make plays. Leading in yards from scrimmage, it would feel better if we won those games."

The timing of the Ravens' bye is definitely much better than a year ago when they were forced to take their bye in the second week of the regular season due to Hurricane Ike ravaging the Houston Texans' city and stadium.

From a health standpoint, the Ravens could use a break to heal up. Especially offensive tackle Jared Gaither, who's expected to return against the Broncos in two weeks at M&T Bank Stadium after missing the past two games with a neck injury.

"Byes come at a great time any week," Mason said. "You could be 6-0, and you'd still welcome the bye. The only time a bye doesn't sit well with a player is if it's at the end of the season, or comes after the first couple of games.

"Then, you really haven't gotten your aches and bruises yet. For us, it comes at a good time after six games. We're .500, and we've got a few players that could use it."

It's unclear what kind of corrections the Ravens will be able to make during their week off.

They haven't forgotten, though, how they were 2-3 a year ago with three consecutive losses before going 9-2 during the remainder of their regular-season schedule.

"I guess in order to understand your future, you've got to look back at your past," Mason said. "We were kind of in the same situation last year and then we were able to make a run toward the end. Hopefully, it bodes well for us again where we're sitting 3-3 now."

However, the Ravens have upcoming games against the Broncos (6-0), Bengals (4-2) and the Indianapolis Colts (5-0) over the next month as well as the Browns (1-5).

"We come back out of the bye and we play some really tough teams," Mason said. And the only thing we need to do is get one win first. Once we get one win and get this train to move, I think it's hard to stop us."


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