OWINGS MILLS, MD. (AP) - After surviving an overtime scare from the winless Buffalo Bills, the Baltimore Ravens can now exhale and try to eradicate their flaws during a much-needed bye week.
Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged Monday that the Ravens were guilty of poor tackling, did not defend the pass well and struggled on special teams in Sunday’s 37-34 victory. He also lamented the fact that Baltimore lost a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter during a second straight game.
But he wasn’t about to apologize for the result.
“We’re very pleased with the victory,” he said. “That’s the mark of a good football team: Sometimes you don’t play your best, but you find a way to win. … We’re not going to be ashamed in any way of a victory, especially against that football team.”
The Ravens gave up more points than in any game this season and allowed more yards (505) than in any game since 2000. Even more distressing was that Baltimore led 34-24 with six minutes left before permitting the Bills to force overtime.
One week earlier, the Ravens lost a 20-10 advantage in the final quarter at New England and fell 23-20 in overtime.
“We’re concerned about that and not happy about that,” Harbaugh said. “We need to get stops in the fourth quarter, and we need to get first downs. We could have won both those games, and neither one of them would have gone into overtime.”
The injury-delayed debut of six-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed helped Baltimore force four turnovers, but cornerback Fabian Washington had such a difficult time that he was benched. The Ravens also had problems stopping receivers after the catch was made _ one reason why Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards and four touchdowns.
It was a completely uncharacteristic performance by a defense that was ranked third in the NFL.
“We didn’t tackle well in the secondary,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think we tackled well at all in the game. That was probably the biggest factor; there were about eight plays that went for big yards that could have been controlled with better tackling. That was disappointing, and surprising.”
Fortunately for the Ravens, style points are meaningless and victories count the same in the standings regardless of how they are accomplished. So Baltimore will take a 5-2 record into the bye week before returning to face Miami at home on Nov. 7.
“We definitely need this rest,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “I think that kind of showed out there on the field.”
The coaching staff will almost spend some of the time off trying to figure out a way to improve Baltimore’s kick-return yardage. Josh Wilson fumbled a kickoff return, and Baltimore didn’t get a yard running back punts.
“If you look at our special teams, I think we’re playing really well except for the return game, specifically the kickoff return. That’s been tough,” Harbaugh said. “To me, the returners are trying too hard to make a play. Don’t make an average play into a bad play; that’s a cardinal sin.”
Despite it all, the Ravens aren’t going to complain about hitting the break at 5-2. Baltimore is 3-0 at home and has won on the road against Pittsburgh and the New York Jets. The losses, at Cincinnati and New England, are by a total of eight points.