OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Contrary to popular belief, the Ravens aren’t wallowing in misery following a nightmarish performance in Jacksonville with fallout that’s lingered deep into the week on internet message boards and talk radio.
While the cliches about moving on and putting the loss behind them have been tossed around like cornhole bags flying through the Ravens locker room, Monday’s loss won’t officially be put behind them until they take the turf at M&T Bank Stadium against the struggling Arizona Cardinals. For a Ravens offense that needed nearly 40 minutes to collect its first first down of the night in Jacksonville, Arizona’s 26th-ranked defense is the right prescription to begin feeling good about itself again.
“To be honest, it’s tough not to think about [a loss] a little bit all week until you go out there and beat the next opponent,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “It’s always in the back of your mind a little bit. But, I think good teams put it past them and do the best they can to go out there and forget about it very quickly.”
The Ravens have done a good job of that over the last two seasons, having won nine straight games that followed a loss. Baltimore is 12-4 in games following a loss in the four-year tenure of John Harbaugh.
Of course, a five-game losing streak for the Cardinals helps the matter and could very well help the Ravens offense get back on track after such a poor showing against the Jaguars. Averaging just under 33 points per game in their three home contests, the Ravens will meet an Arizona defense in transition while adjusting to new coordinator — and former Pittsburgh defensive backs coach — Ray Horton’s 3-4 scheme.
The Cardinals have two former Steelers, a currently-injured Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, at outside linebacker, but they lack the overall personnel to strongly remind anyone of the imposing Pittsburgh defenses with which Horton previously worked.
“[Horton] really has done a great job, considering no offseason, to get that package in, having two outside linebackers that have been in the system and some things,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “You guys will see it. You are going to see a good defense, and you are going to see that looks [similar] — personnel obviously different — but schemes are almost identical.”
Offensively, the Cardinals haven’t been much better, which doesn’t speak well for their chances traveling east to M&T Bank Stadium where the Ravens have allowed just 38 points in three games. However, the Cardinals possess one of the best receivers in the NFL in Larry Fitzgerald, who will pose the biggest challenge to Baltimore’s young cornerbacks through the first seven games of the season.
“We have to bring our A-game,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “We have to have eyes on him all the time. He’s Larry Fitzgerald. That explains a lot.”
So, how do the Ravens go about covering the five-time Pro Bowl wideout?
“Make sure, No. 1, you know where he’s lined up at all times,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “Don’t cover the decoys; cover the guys they’re throwing to. And they’re probably going to be throwing to him a lot. You’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to study extra tape on him. You’ve seen the tape. I mean, he’ll go up — and we could have three guys on him — and he’ll go up and pluck the ball out of the air.”
As has been the case all season, the biggest key to stopping a passing attack will be to pressure the quarterback, something the Ravens have been able to do all season by collecting 19 sacks in their first six games. In contrast, Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb has been sacked 18 times this season, a major reason why he’s struggled at the start of his career in Arizona.