One week after looking like one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens had a humbling performance in their road opener.
Anxious to take the field Sunday to prove last week’s showing was an anomaly, the Ravens visit a St. Louis Rams team that is also hoping to put a dismal loss behind it.
Baltimore (1-1) couldn’t have looked much better in its season opener, crushing defending AFC champion Pittsburgh 35-7. It followed that up with a major letdown, however, losing 26-13 at Tennessee last Sunday.
After forcing a franchise-record seven turnovers against the Steelers, the Ravens’ defense only created one against the Titans while yielding 432 yards.
“The same performance we took responsibility for against Pittsburgh, we take responsibility for against Tennessee,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Both of those games are ours. That’s who we are, and we build off both of those games. We take what we learn and we take it to St. Louis and try to become a better football team.”
Bradford threw for a career-high 331 yards Monday against the New York Giants as the Rams (0-2) moved up and down the field, gaining 367 yards. They had three drives stall inside the Giants’ 10 yard line, however, each time having to settle for a short field goal in a 28-16 loss.
“Just too many mistakes in the red zone,” Bradford said. “When you get down there you have to come away with touchdowns.”
The inability to get in the end zone wasn’t St. Louis’ only problem, as turnovers led to New York’s first two touchdowns. Eight penalties for 85 yards didn’t help, either.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “It’s difficult enough to beat any football team in this league without doing that.”
Beating the Ravens could be awfully difficult if Steven Jackson can’t go.
Jackson sat out Monday after injuring his right quad in a season-opening 31-13 loss to Philadelphia, and Spagnuolo isn’t sure if he’ll be healthy this week. The Rams rushed for 59 yards against the Giants, with backup Carnell Williams(notes) finishing with 36 yards on 13 attempts.
Baltimore did a solid job against another elite back last week, holding Chris Johnson to 53 yards on 24 carries. But by putting eight men near the line of scrimmage to stop Johnson, Hasselbeck was able to pick apart a Baltimore secondary that was missing cornerbacks Chris Carr(notes) (hamstring) and Jimmy Smith(notes) (high ankle sprain).
Carr is questionable to return against the Rams, while Smith will almost certainly miss at least another week.
While the Ravens’ defense looked flat last week, the offense wasn’t much better.
Baltimore totaled 229 yards of offense and turned the ball over three times. Joe Flacco(notes), who had three touchdowns and a 117.6 quarterback rating in the opener, finished with two interceptions and a 51.2 last Sunday, his worst mark since Week 2 of last season.
The Ravens are 18-2 when Flacco has a passer rating over 100, and this will be his first game against the Rams. These teams haven’t met since Baltimore forced six turnovers in a 22-3 win on Oct. 14, 2007.
While the Ravens are nearly unbeatable when Flacco plays well, they are also pretty good at bouncing back from losses, having won eight straight following a defeat since October 2009.
The Rams’ track record isn’t as impressive. They’re 0-2 for a fifth straight season and have opened with three consecutive losses three of the last four years.
“We’re certainly not where we want to be record-wise or performance-wise,” Spagnuolo said. “We’ve always said this, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. You can only say this for so long because then you start running out of games.”