You can already hear the critiques and complaints about the Ravens’ 13-10 win over the Steelers on Sunday night.
The offense was anemic on the road once again, mustering just six points and finishing 3-for-14 on third down. The only saving grace was a turnover-free performance by quarterback Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense.
Taking the offensive showing in isolation, you’d be more understanding as the Ravens went up against the top-ranked defense in the league in yards allowed, but we know better watching the unit operate away from M&T Bank Stadium at this point.
An inspiring performance from a maligned and banged-up defense did come against a Pittsburgh offense without Ben Roethlisberger.
It was ugly and uncomfortable as it usually is against Pittsburgh, with the defensive — or offensively-challenged — struggle being decided by one possession for the ninth time in 11 games played between the Ravens and the Steelers in the John Harbaugh era.
A 63-yard punt return by Jacoby Jones was the lone touchdown for the Ravens as they won their third consecutive regular-season game in Pittsburgh for only the second time in franchise history.
No, it wasn’t a work of art, but a win over the Steelers should never be taken for granted, regardless of who’s playing quarterback for Pittsburgh.
Last year’s season-opening 35-7 win aside, it’s never easy.
“Whatever procedure my brother had, I think I’m going to need it later tonight,” Harbaugh said minutes after the narrow win. “My heart’s moving a little fast right now.”
Join the club, John.
As much as we’ve focused on the Ravens’ many injuries, offensive shortcomings on the road, and overall defensive struggles, they stand at 8-2 and enjoy a stranglehold on the AFC North with six games remaining in the regular season.
It really doesn’t make sense, but I’ll remind you we just spent six months saying the same thing during the baseball season before the Orioles advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
This year’s version of the Ravens simply finds ways to win games and it’s landed them in a premium position despite their many flaws. At this point, I’m not sure we’ll see remedies to those weaknesses, which supports the notion of the Ravens needing to play playoff games in Baltimore in order to have a realistic chance of advancing to the Super Bowl.
But it’s becoming more and more difficult to bet against Baltimore when you see the rest of the overall competition in the AFC.
Talking to Terrell Suggs after Sunday night’s win, I expected the defensive bravado to resurface after holding the Steelers to 10 points, but that wasn’t the case. It was an interesting vibe offered by the 30-year-old linebacker, who admitted he’s still not where he wants to be physically in terms of explosiveness and being able to make his usual impact.
“I’m starting to believe the numbers really don’t matter,” Suggs said. “We’ve been a top-10 defense for years and yet, we have no Super Bowl rings to account for them. Last year, in the AFC championship, we lost to the 31st-ranked defense. The numbers are all good for [media] to kind of pile on, but I guess the only thing that really matters is wins and losses.”
Maybe it was a veteran realizing the Ravens’ window for winning a championship is closing — at least in terms of how the current team is constructed.
Or perhaps the Ravens are embracing the good karma coming their way in the win column week after week despite the obstacles they’ve faced.
Baltimore is counting on names such as Corey Graham, Chris Johnson, and James Ihedigbo to make game-changing plays at this point.
The defense is below average statistically. The offense looks elite at home but cannot get out of its own way on the road. The special teams have been exceptional.
The sum of those parts shouldn’t add up to the Ravens being a championship-caliber team.
But it’s somehow working out so far to put them in position to make a run.
An 8-2 record proves it.