The questions and doubts continue to linger, especially over a bye week following the Ravens’ worst loss of the John Harbaugh era.
A 1-2 road record and a measly 28 points scored in their last 10 quarters away from M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens must be tired of the interrogation. A Baltimore defense that once owned the title of one of the NFL’s elite as if it were their birthright has experienced the lingering taste of 43 points surrendered in its most recent game, dropping the unit all the way to 28th in yards allowed and 17th in scoring defense.
It’s only human nature to be sick of the queries, theories, and criticism — even if coaches and players won’t admit it — but they also know there’s only one way to change the tune of media and fans alike who doubt the Ravens’ ability to succeed away from their home stadium.
“What’s to be sick about? It’s a factor,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got to play better on the road. We know that. We’re going to hear about it until we do better. It doesn’t really matter if we’re sick of it or not, we just have to do better.”
While there’s no such thing as a layup road game in the NFL, a trip to Cleveland Browns Stadium is as close as it gets to an elixir to cure the Ravens’ road woes as they currently own a four-game winning streak in Cleveland and have a 10-4 record there since 1999. Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco have never lost in Cleveland, and the Ravens will try to win their 10th straight overall against the Browns after prevailing in a tighter-than-expected 23-16 tilt in Week 4 in Baltimore.
However, the Ravens also know the 2-6 Browns are hungry to end those ugly streaks against Baltimore and point out that three of the last five contests have been decided by seven points or less. The Ravens look to return to their roots in a traditional AFC North matchup filled with physicality and brute.
“Cleveland, they always fight us,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “They always play us tough no matter what portion of the season we play them, no matter where we play them or no matter each of the team’s records [and] situations. It’s always a fight between Baltimore and Cleveland. I think both sides like that.”
The difference now might be Cleveland’s perspective as the Browns come off their second win of the season in an ugly 7-6 final over the San Diego Chargers. Struggling at 2-6 with a rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden and still lacking play-makers on both sides of the ball, Cleveland also sees a Baltimore defense susceptible to the run — and ranked 30th in the league — and rookie running back Trent Richardson coming off a career-best 122 rushing yards against San Diego.
And the Browns also see a Ravens offense unable to produce on the road and lacking confidence after being demolished in Houston two weeks ago.
A young Cleveland team might still be overmatched on paper, but ignorance might be bliss against the Ravens, who look more vulnerable than they have in a long time. Nine straight losses to the Ravens don’t mean much to Browns players who haven’t been around for much of that stretch and for second-year head coach Pat Shurmur.
“Those types of things really aren’t brought up in the locker room,” Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said, “especially just because the current staff that we’re with right now has only been here [one] year. You talk about most of the guys on this team, this is their first year in the NFL, so it doesn’t really pertain to a lot of the guys on this team.”