Harbaugh on Ravens: 'We need to get better'

201211041249461500678-p2.jpeg

Harbaugh on Ravens: 'We need to get better'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) There's really nothing eye-catching about the Baltimore Ravens this season - except their record.

Baltimore's inconsistent offense and defensive deficiencies were on full display Sunday in Cleveland, yet the Ravens emerged with another lackluster victory to improve to 6-2 and remain atop the AFC North.

At the midpoint in its season, Baltimore owns the second-best record in the conference and appears on course to reach the playoffs in a fifth straight year.

``By the same token, we're not the team that we need to be. We need to be better,'' coach John Harbaugh acknowledged Monday. ``We need be better on third down. We need to run the ball more consistently. We need to protect our quarterback more consistently. We need to throw and catch better. And that's just on the offensive side.''

Baltimore went six straight possessions without a first down in Sunday's 25-15 win. Ray Rice gained 66 yards rushing in the first half and finished with 98. Joe Flacco completed 15 of 24 passes for 153 yards.

Not exactly the production that Ravens want from an offense that has been called upon to offset a struggling defense that's without injured starters Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb.

``A lot of things have to get better or we're not going to be 6-2 in the second half,'' Harbaugh said.

The offense begins with Rice, a Pro Bowl running back who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last year. Against Cleveland, he started strong but garnered only 40 yards on the ground after the opening two series.

``We need to be able to run the ball. Absolutely. That's kind of our identity,'' Harbaugh said. ``We want to be a physical football team. ... The truth is, it's going to take different things in different games to win.''

Against the Browns (2-6), it took a fast start and a fourth-quarter rally for Baltimore to secure its 11th consecutive division win. But the Ravens gave up five scoring drives, were outgained 290-282 and allowed 105 yards rushing to rookie Trent Richardson.

Following a season-opening 44-13 win over Cincinnati, Baltimore has won by 1, 7, 3, 2 and 10 points.

``I'm all for blowouts - as long as we're the ones doing the blowing out,'' Harbaugh said. ``We were on the short end of one two weeks ago (43-13 at Houston) and that wasn't too much fun. But blowouts are tough to come by.''

That's why the Ravens aren't about to complain about winning ugly. Especially on the road, where they evened their record at 2-2 after squeezing past the lowly Browns.

``To win a division game on the road is huge,'' Rice said. ``We've never been fancy and pretty, but we find ourselves on top most of the time. That's Ravens football. Our wins are not pretty, but when you are 6-2, there's no complaining about it.''

The second half of the season offers a challenging schedule that begins Sunday at home against Oakland, includes two games with Pittsburgh and features home matchups with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos.

``We've got the men for the job,'' Harbaugh said. ``We're going to work hard and we're going to improve.''

If the Ravens can perform as they did during the first two series against the Browns - both of which ended in touchdowns - they will flourish. But that kind of consistency has eluded them since the season opener.

``I wish we would go out there and continue to play like we were in the first quarter, and go up and down the field the whole game,'' Flacco said. ``But sometimes it doesn't work out that way, and you have to be ready to continue to play the whole game and play the full 60 minutes, take whatever is thrown your way and go make the best of it.

``Hey, we're a good team. We've been in a lot of situations like this before. So when it does happen, we know how to react, we know how to go out there and keep our heads down and play until it's all over.''

Watching tape of Sunday's game probably caused Harbaugh and more than a few players to wince. But it wasn't all bad.

``Lost in all the talk about things we have to get better at was the fact that we had to win that game,'' Harbaugh said. ``We did not turn the ball over, we had no major negative play in our own end that cost us the game. ... It took some patience, but I was proud of the fact we were able to pull it off.''

Notes: Harbaugh said G Marshal Yanda, who missed several series Sunday, ``tweaked a knee a little bit and tweaked his ankle a little bit.'' Yanda received an MRI and the results showed nothing significant, Harbaugh said. ... G Bobbie Williams sprained an ankle and will likely be rested during the week but is expected to play Sunday.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Will lack of conditioning lead to Richardson's downfall with Ravens?

healthyperrimanravensrefframe_1.jpg

Will lack of conditioning lead to Richardson's downfall with Ravens?

Will running back Trent Richardson’s lack of conditioning be his downfall with the Ravens?

Richardson missed the first week of OTA’s with a hamstring issue, which was not the kind of early impression he wanted to make. Some injuries are unavoidable. But conditioning has been an issue for Richardson throughout his brief and so far undistinguished NFL career.

Entering the NFL as the No. 3 overall pick with the Browns in 2012, Richardson has disappointed in Cleveland and Indianapolis, and spent 2015 out of the league after the Raiders cut him before the season. When the Ravens signed Richardson in April, he knew it might be his last NFL chance. However, Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants to see even more commitment from Richardson when it comes to staying in shape.

RELATED: IN LATEST COMEBACK BID, RAVENS TE DENNIS PITTA'S CONFIDENCE NOT A PROBLEM

“Trent just needs to get healthy,” Harbaugh said after the first week of OTA’s. “I think the workload and the amount of work it takes to be a world class conditioned athlete is something that he’s working on right now. That’s what he needs to understand and that’s where he needs to get himself. When he gets himself there, he’s got talent. It will be fun. I’m very certain he’ll get there and when he does we’ll be able to evaluate him.”

The Ravens don’t have to wait on Richardson. Their running back competition is already intense, with Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Terrance West all fighting for carries and roles.

Whether Richardson even threatens to make the team remains to be seen. His bigger priority is improving his conditioning, and getting back on the field.

MORE RAVENS: MIKE TOMLIN, ANTONIO BROWN GO TO PENGUINS PLAYOFF GAME

In latest comeback bid, Ravens TE Dennis Pitta's confidence not a problem

ravensotas052716refframe_1.jpg

In latest comeback bid, Ravens TE Dennis Pitta's confidence not a problem

Not everyone close to Dennis Pitta was immediately sold on his second NFL comeback attempt. Will his twice-fractured hip hold up? How much is Pitta risking his long-term health?

Pitta has pondered those questions for months. But after the first week of OTA’s, the Ravens’ 30-year-old tight end remained confident he had made the right decision.

“I had to convince a few people, and I’m thankful for those who have been in my corner all along and had my best interests in mind,” Pitta said. “Like I’ve said before, I know my situation better than anyone else, and I’m confident in the decision I made to come back, and certainly there were people who wanted to make sure that I was confident in that decision. I have a great support team behind me, and we all feel good about this move.”

Pitta first fractured his hip during training camp in 2013, then again on a non-contact play against the Browns in 2014. However, Pitta says he doesn’t think about his right hip when he’s on the field. He’s also not lowering his expectations, despite not playing at all in 2015, and not playing a full season since 2012.

Pitta was one of quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite targets, catching 61 passes for 669 yards during the 2012 regular season, then adding 14 catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns during the Ravens’ playoff run to a Super Bowl title.

Asked if he could return that level of play, Pitta suggested, “Why not?”

“No, my expectations haven’t changed from four years ago, to two years ago, to now,” Pitta said. “My level of expectation is extremely high going into this year. Like I said, I feel confident in how I can run, how I can move, how I can play and it’s just a matter of getting those reps back to where I’m confident in doing all of that. So, yes, expectations personally are very high.”

Pitta obviously wasn’t ready to end his career. If he is on the 53-man roster Week 1, it will be a terrific comeback story.

Mike Tomlin, Antonio Brown go to Penguins playoff game

ravensotasbrentcliffrefframe_1.jpg

Mike Tomlin, Antonio Brown go to Penguins playoff game

If you didn't the the Pittsburgh Steelers enough already, this ought to help. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and receiver Antonio Brown decided to take in some hockey on Thursday and unfortunately, they were cheering for the local team.

On the one hand, what do you expect? They play for the Pittsburgh Steelers so it's no surprise to see them cheering for the hometown team. On the other hand, the Steelers are the team Ravens fans all love to hate so to see them supporting the chief rivals of the Washington Capitals, that stings.

Just one more reason to hate the Steelers this football season.

RELATED: SEAN PAYTON SAYS RAVENS LOSING WEEK OF OTAS ISN'T THAT BIG OF A DEAL