Where do Ravens go from here?

Written by on October 25, 2011 in Ravens, Sports - No comments

Former Ravens quarterback and current ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer predicted Monday night’s Baltimore-Jacksonville game would be a “bloodbath.”

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Get ready for a cliche: That’s why they play the game.

Jacksonville’s 12-7 victory over Baltimore was definitely a surprise to most everyone in the country — even Jaguars fans. The Jaguars had lost five straight games while breaking in rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert and didn’t look like much of a threat heading into Monday’s contest.

But the Jacksonville offensive line generated a push against Baltimore’s stout front, which kept Gabbert clean most of the night. As expected, the Jags relied on the running game as they got Maurice Jones-Drew 105 rushing yards. They were able to chew up 36:15 off the clock, leaving Baltimore’s offense to work with just 23:45.

As good as Baltimore has looked this year against Pittsburgh, St. Louis, the Jets and Houston, it’s looked equally as bad against Tennessee and Jacksonville. (What is it about Baltimore going on the road against the AFC South?)

So where does this loss leave the Ravens, now at 4-2 and down a half a game in the AFC North?

A rebound game against Arizona this Sunday might be just what the doctor ordered for these battered Ravens. Arizona’s defense is subpar at best and could be what Joe Flacco and the offense need to find a rhythm. Plus, it’s at home where the Ravens, like most NFL home teams, play their best ball.

While players can’t look ahead in the NFL, reporters can. And the Week 9 rematch against Pittsburgh looms even larger now. If Baltimore can’t perform well on the road against Tennessee and Jacksonville, what makes you think they’ll do any better against a Pittsburgh team out for revenge?

The Steelers have continued to struggle running the football, which has only made them turn to Ben Roethlisberger and the passing attack. Roethlisberger threw for 361 yards against Arizona and has a favorable matchup this week against New England’s pourous secondary.

If Roethlisberger finds a groove and sustains momentum, the Ravens will have their hands full in two weeks. Remember: In Week 1, the Steelers tried to force the run on offense before becoming one-dimensional in the passing game. Roethlisberger was able to throw for 280 yards by the game’s end.

With the passing game becoming the team’s first option, look for a different gameplan out of the gate. But that story can be saved a week.

A loss in awful fashion happens to most teams each year. Very rarely do teams go undefeated (though the Green Bay Packers like their on pace to do it.) The goal for most great teams is to win all your home games and split on the road. That puts you at 12-4 for the season, practically guaranteeing a playoff spot.

The Ravens are still in good shape because of their defense. Despite losing, the Ravens moved up to No. 1 in total defense (272.7 yards per game) by holding Jacksonville to 205 total yards. By limiting Jacksonville to 12 points, the Ravens’ No. 1 scoring defense improved to 13.8 points per game.

There are 10 games left on the schedule and no reason to panic. The NFL’s great because of games like this. No, not for sloppy offensive play on both sides of the ball. But for the parity allows teams that appear bad on paper to come away with wins against squads that looks like a Super Bowl contenders.

Maybe folks jumped the gun on Baltimore being one of the top teams in the running to reach the Super Bowl. Or maybe Jacksonville’s a better team than its now 2-6 record indicates. It’s still way too early to decide if this loss will matter much in the long run.

What’s more important in the short term is how this team responds come Sunday.

By Jason Butt

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