OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens won’t apologize for beating three teams that have one win between them, and they make no excuses for an offense that’s produced only four touchdowns in 12 quarters.
What matters to coach John Harbaugh and his players is that the Ravens are 3-0, alone atop the AFC North and putting a good deal of distance between themselves and the squad that went 5-11 last year.
Baltimore is one of only five unbeaten teams in the NFL, a distinction that might be more significant if its victories didn’t come against Buffalo (1-2), Cleveland (0-3) and Jacksonville (0-3). While Harbaugh acknowledged that it’s too soon to get an accurate read on the strength of his team, he made a point of quoting an esteemed former coach in assessing the current state of the Ravens.
“Bill Parcells says you are what your record says you are,” Harbaugh said Monday. “I was reminded about that last year by you guys quite frequently. So I’ll remind you: It’s a pretty good statement.”
This Sunday, the Ravens will attempt to go 4-0 for only the second time in franchise history when Oakland (2-1) comes to town.
“They’re a contender in the AFC,” Harbaugh said.
Maybe the Ravens are, too.
What’s most impressive about Baltimore thus far is its ability to win close games. During the miserable 2015 season, the Ravens’ six losses by six points or fewer included an agonizing 22-20 defeat at home against Jacksonville.
In the rematch Sunday, Baltimore pulled out a 19-17 win . Justin Tucker’s fourth field goal, a 54-yarder 1:02 remaining, turned around a game in which the Ravens committed three turnovers and were flagged for eight penalties.
One week earlier, Baltimore rallied from 20 points down to beat the Browns. That followed a 13-7 win over Buffalo in the opener.
“Last year we lost a lot of close ones,” defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. “It’s good to come out on the other side of it.”
Maybe it’s the good karma that John and Jim Harbaugh, currently head coach at Michigan, have seemingly experienced throughout much of their lives.
“When we go to the mall, we don’t start with the parking spaces in the back row,” John Harbaugh said. “We drive right to the front row. There’s going to be someone pulling out. Yeah, the place is packed and it might say no parking available, but someone’s going to leave as we come in. It’s just always worked out that way for us.”
It’s been that type of season thus far for the Ravens, who last year fell into the habit of losing close games.
Now, after winning three games by a total of 13 points despite having nine field goals compared to four TDs, the Ravens are beginning to believe they’re going to win the tight ones.
“You gain a certain confidence in terms of knowing that you can do it,” Harbaugh said. “When you start having some good things happen for you, like our team has, maybe you can build on those things.”
That doesn’t mean Harbaugh isn’t working to make the Ravens better. There will come a time when Baltimore will need touchdowns, not field goals, to win. And three turnovers per game is usually a prescription for failure.
“I am confident the touchdowns are going to come,” Harbaugh said.
Although the Ravens have thrown 118 passes and rushed only 76 times, there will be no balanced attack in the future. Joe Flacco will continue to sling the ball, and running backs Justin Forsett and Terrance West will be used simply to keep the opposition guessing.
“I don’t think we’re going to be 50/50,” Harbaugh said. “But you have to be able to run the ball to not be one-dimensional. We’re not happy with our running game in that sense. We’ve got to force people to defend the run because that opens up your passing game.”
The Ravens came out of Sunday’s game relatively healthy. Rookie guard Alex Lewis is in concussion protocol, Harbaugh said.