Harbaugh needs to guide the Ravens through choppy waters

December 07, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Crunch time has arrived.

December games in the NFL – particularly when you’re challenging for the division title or battling for a playoff spot – always take on added importance. And it’s no different for the Ravens right now, who face a huge, nearly-must-win contest in Houston on Monday night.

The game comes along at a concerning time for John Harbaugh’s team, who have six more days to stew after their failure-to-close on Sunday night against the Steelers.

It’s a concerning time because there are a few early warning signs that things might not be copacetic in the Ravens locker room after three straight games of less-than-effective offensive output.

And that means now is when-and-where John Harbaugh needs to shine. He needs to be the guy that keeps the team together through the rough patches. He needs to be the man out front who keeps the media from sinking their teeth into the meat of his team’s football body. He needs to get his team back on track next Monday night.

In this case, based on what I’ve seen over the last three years, I’ll bet on John Harbaugh in this situation.

This is where Harbaugh proves his worth.

Some coaches don’t handle losing well and have a difficult time recovering from it.

Such is not the case with Harbaugh, who doesn’t like losing, but has displayed a unique ability to rally his troops after losing. It’s one thing to “accept” losing, which a lot of coaches can’t do. It’s another thing to “deal with” losing, which good coaches can do by making sure their team’s most recent loss doesn’t carry over into the next week.

This is Harbaugh’s greatest challenge right now.

He must do whatever is necessary to make sure his team doesn’t sleepwalk on Monday night in Houston.

And that means Harbaugh needs to make sure there’s no strife in his locker room, where a handful of players were either privately or public sniping about the team’s offense on Sunday night in the moments after the disappointing loss to Ben Roethlisberger.

Now is not the time for locker room lawyering to begin.

Now is the time for unity and hand-holding.

Complaining about the coaches and/or the strategies of the team isn’t going to contribute to anything except losing.

And John Harbaugh knows that. And because he knows that, he needs to tackle any bubbling controversy on Wednesday when his troops return to work.

I’ll bet Harbaugh handles it.

I watched him with great interest on Monday afternoon during his weekly press conference. It was, in my opinion (and I’ve seen them all this year), his best “effort” of the season. He was open, analytical and very honest on Monday. Humbled? Sure, perhaps he was, a little bit. Concerned? It appeared as if he knew just how impactful that loss