- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2009

OWINGS MILLS, Md. | The difference between the unbeaten Baltimore Ravens of two weeks ago and the team currently mired in a two-game losing streak isn’t dramatically significant.

The Ravens (3-2) still would be undefeated if they finished off a late drive against New England on Oct. 4 and prevented the Cincinnati Bengals from marching 80 yards for a touchdown in the waning minutes of a 17-14 loss Sunday.

Then again, Baltimore might be a sub-.500 team if linebacker Ray Lewis didn’t make a game-saving tackle in San Diego in Week 2.

“The bottom line is this: We make a couple plays we didn’t make and we’re 5-0. We don’t make a couple plays in one other game and we’re 2-3,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “That’s the nature of the NFL. If we want to be in the hunt, we’ve got to win games like this. But no matter what happened in the last couple of weeks, we’re still the same team we would have been. All the things we’re trying to become as a football team, those things are intact.”

In the wake of the 27-21 loss to the Patriots, Harbaugh tried to deflect questions about several key penalties that went against Baltimore. He made it clear Sunday that, even though the Ravens were flagged three times during Cincinnati’s final drive, that is not why they lost.

The players agreed.

“If you are going to make those penalties, you’d better play well enough on other downs to make up for them,” linebacker Jaret Johnson said. “We didn’t do that.”

The Ravens yielded 120 yards rushing to Cincinnati’s Cedric Benson, the first time a running back has eclipsed 100 yards against Baltimore in 40 games.

“That’s something we take pride in,” Johnson said. “We put it on our backs that, ‘Hey, you’re not going to run the ball on us.’ And when a team is able to do that, yeah, it’s hard. We have to get it fixed.”

And quickly because the Ravens face Adrian Peterson and the unbeaten Minnesota Vikings this Sunday.

“We have to do a better job of tackling and filling the holes,” tackle Haloti Ngata said.

Other problems against Cincinnati: The defense permitted the Bengals to cover 80 yards in less than two minutes with the outcome hanging in the balance, the offense managed only one touchdown and quarterback Joe Flacco threw for only 186 yards and two interceptions.

If the Ravens are to get back to the AFC championship game, these things must be corrected. Even if Baltimore beat the Patriots and Bengals, the final 11 weeks wouldn’t be any easier.

“We’re the same team, basically, at 3-2 or 5-0,” Harbaugh said. “Essentially we’ve got the same issues, and the same things we’re doing well.”

When the players gathered Monday to watch game film and discuss this week’s upcoming game against Minnesota, there was no lamenting opportunities lost.

Running back Ray Rice, who ran for 69 yards and caught seven passes for 74 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals, said, “We came here in good spirits. … If we were 5-0 we’d be riding a high horse right now, but I think this is right where we need to be because we still have things to work on.

“It’s not like we got blown out of the stadium. These are games where, in the fourth quarter, there were one or two plays that if we make the play, we win the game,” Rice added. “Those things get corrected. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s not a lack of intensity. It’s not a lack of [being] physical.”

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