OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are not an organization accustomed to losing, a notion that’s become even more emphatic in the John Harbaugh era.
Losing at home is even rarer as Baltimore dropped its first game at M&T Bank Stadium in nearly two years last Sunday, snapping a 15-game home winning streak. To make matters worse, the defeat came at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers and prevented the Ravens from clinching their fifth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
Many players and coaches will tell you it’s business as usual following a loss and that the team remains unfazed, but quarterback Joe Flacco spoke the truth on Wednesday when asked if it was the status quo after the 23-20 loss to Pittsburgh and one of his most disappointing performances of the season.
“That’s probably a little bit of a lie,” said Flacco, cracking a smile. “There’s always a little bit of extra urgency after a loss, for whatever reason. I don’t know if it’s a bad thing or a good thing. But we are always calm, cool, and collected and confident around here.”
As the Ravens now leave behind their impressive home winning streak, they’ll try to hold onto another stretch in which they’ve won 15 consecutive games immediately following a loss. Baltimore hasn’t lost consecutive games since a three-game losing streak in Oct. 2009.
When asked what his team has done differently after a defeat to avoid any type of losing streak in the last three season, Harbaugh offered an interesting reply in suggesting how things change in those weeks of work following a loss at the team’s Owings Mills facility.
“Maybe it’s the fact that we don’t,” the head coach said. “We pay attention after every game. We really try to go to work and adhere to the process and work as hard as we can to build on all the good things and correct every negative thing.”
Of course, a team that’s lost only 11 regular-season games in its last three season doesn’t have much room for losing streaks, but the Ravens find an intriguing task in keeping that streak alive in Landover on Sunday against the red-hot Washington Redskins. Riding a three-game winning streak to improve its record to 6-6, Washington suddenly finds itself just a game behind the division-leading Giants and has a postseason berth on its mind.
Unlike the Ravens, who can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a loss by either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati, the Redskins must treat the final four games of the regular season like postseason contests as one loss could potentially spell the end for hopes of extending their season.
“It’s going to be two teams that are going out there and fighting,” running back Ray Rice said. “We are fighting for a playoff berth. They are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive. You are talking about two different teams that have a lot at stake with this game.”
The Ravens have not only been successful in their last 15 games immediately following a loss, but they’ve often won in convincing fashion, outscoring opponents in those games by a 441-229 margin to remove any lingering stench from the previous week. In a season in which little has come easy, a win of any margin would be good enough for them in knowing they’d remain in position for the No. 2 seed in the AFC in the process.
An offense looking to rebound from a flat performance against the Steelers and to finally find consistency on the road — albeit only 35 miles away from their home stadium — and a defense trying to regroup and solve the read option and tricky pistol formation used by rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III will have plenty of work to keep them occupied against a dangerous opponent.
And the Ravens know those tasks should be enough to put the Pittsburgh loss out of their minds. They don’t really have a choice.
“It’s never a good feeling when you lose, but it’s the way you take a loss,” Rice said. “I’ve always taken the approach — me being a leader on the team — what are you going to do to get better or worse from it? We’ve just been that kind of team to find a way; we’ve always found a way to bounce back after a loss. [There is] no way to accept losing.”
Knowing their chances for the No. 1 seed were all but erased with last Sunday’s loss, the Ravens know their margin for error remains small if they want to earn a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round. They’ve heard the doubts — both nationally and locally — about whether they belong in the same breath as other teams with similar records this season.
Perhaps the Ravens and their fans alike have taken winning for granted, but they hope Sunday doesn’t mark the end of another streak after their impeccable home mark was snapped.
Bouncing back is just the way the Ravens handle their business under Harbaugh, even with a challenge in front of them that appears more difficult now than it did even a few weeks ago. That resiliency is why they always find themselves in the same position in December.
“We’ve always been in it and right in the thick of things and really fighting for a spot,” Flacco said. “It’s no different this year. I’m sure that we do take it for granted a little bit, but that’s not a bad thing.”