The Baltimore Ravens struggles on the road have been well documented at this point so I will spare you the reminiscence of past blow-outs, poor play-calling and mishandled situations that have occurred during that span. It should suffice to say that this Ravens team does not travel well, especially when traveling across time zones. The larger the time change the worse they seem to play.
There are more opinions flying around about why this happens than there are healthy players on the roster at this point. Some say that it's a confidence thing and the team needs the home crowd to bring out the best in them. Some say it has to do with game times and sleep patterns. You can tell the Ravens organization itself has gotten quite desperate over the situation being as they have elected to bring in doctors to do studies on the teams sleeping habit changes from home to road games. Some blame the head coach, some blame the quarterback, some say it's the new defensive coordinator. Obviously offensive coordinator Cam Cameron gets the majority of the flack but it seems that no one comes out unscathed in "Blame-Gate".
I've seen the question asked more this season than ever before, "who are these Ravens?". Are they the team that cut through Cincinnati like a hot knife through butter in week one. Are they the team that can win the tough game, even compensating for their own short-comings at times, like they did against the Cowboys and Patriots. Or, are they the team that got log-slammed by the, suddenly very beatable looking, Houston Texans weeks ago?
The short, easy answer is that they are all of those teams. These Ravens probably have no more of an idea who they are than anyone else around the city of Baltimore or the national media knows. Joe Flacco has said it himself, "sometimes you go out there feeling great and nothing goes your way, and sometimes the whole game is a struggle and you manage to pull out a tough win that can define a season".
I think what it really comes down to is preparation. You know the other team is preparing for exactly what you are going to do on game day. They have scouts and coaches and players watching film on every play we have ever run. So, how can we use that against them in their own house, without our crowd there to bring out the best in us?It is simple, we must be better prepared than the other team. The Ravens have proven that they have the talent to beat anyone, any day on a football field. So, how do they translate that into wins on the road? Preparation.
The Ravens have tried to surprise teams by coming out in the no-huddle, the sugar-huddle, passing the ball to set up the run when the best players on their offense are lined up in the backfield. Preparation. What the Ravens have going for them right now is that they have played so erratically on the road, opposing teams probably have no idea what the heck they are going to do when they line up on offense at this point. One would think that at this point being 8-2 and needing to stay atop the division with precious few games left that it would be time to turn to the best players you have left and let them lead you down the stretch.
Maybe that is where the problem comes from. Maybe the Ravens are confused as to who their best players are. I know it has become a passing league but when was the last time we put a game in the hands of Ray Rice and Vonta Leach and came out as the loser? We all know that the Chargers are going to come out throwing the ball all over the place on us so we must be prepared for that. Can we beat them in an aerial shootout? Probably not. However how do you beat a team that wants to fling the ball all over the field and score quickly and often? You run the ball, control the clock and keep their offense on the sidelines. You force their quarterback to become frustrated and try and do too much.
Many great things can come from this approach. Turn-overs, fumbles, interceptions and over-thrown passes. Preparation. The Chargers are a team that feels like they have a lot to prove. They are very dangerous right now. They would love to beat one of the leagues best teams handily like they did last season. So, let's use that against them and slow the game down to a grind it out to a time of possession, field position battle if we can. That is the type of game we can win on the road. It is never to late for this Baltimore Ravens team to learn that.
At home we may be able to win big aerial shootouts like we did against the Raiders but on the road let's lean on what we know will travel well, our running game. Then, after they sell out on the run to try and stop us from milking the clock, we hit them over the top with the big time, deep threats we posses that they had forgotten about.
This team has built a very nice show they can put on at M&T Bank Stadium but that show doesn't go on the road so it's time to figure out a new approach. That new approach might just be the old approach that got us this far in the first place. Makes sense to me any way...