In a report from Jamison Hensley, the Ravens headed out to London early Monday morning, likely meaning they landed late into GMT time. The reason for the decision? According to head coach John Harbaugh, the biggest reason is because “we did the opposite” of what the team did the last and only time they played an international game.
Hensley talks about the 2017 trip to London where the Ravens played the Jacksonville Jaguars, and describes it as a “forgettable experience”. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be thought of any more differently than forgettable to most fans. The Ravens lost to the Jags in a 44-7 blowout that fans have never forgotten. When it was announced the Ravens were playing London earlier this year, it was the first thing everybody talked about. Like every team has done this year in 2023 for international games, the Ravens arrived Thursday before that Sunday game in 2017.
So this year, the Ravens are doing the exact opposite process. The Ravens have moved their entire operation to London for the week-long Monday-Sunday stay. Harbaugh states that everything is being moved from video to medical to all the equipment. The Ravens will run all of their week's worth of practices in London while getting six nights of sleep in the new time zone.
This is the earliest any team has left for an international game this year and Harbaugh isn’t too sure what the result will be. But he’s hoping the extra sleep and adjustment to the time zone will help them be ready for the 9:30 a.m. ET game time, which is 2:30 p.m. local in London.
With the Ravens moving their entire operation, including medical, it’s a good bet that all of their IR/PUP guys traveled with the team and will continue their rehab process as they attempt to return to the field. It’s feasible that Keaton Mitchell (who is confined to be in London via his Instagram) might make a return, as the Ravens could be looking for any offensive spark from a running back who won’t fumble the ball. Based on reports from last week, Tyus Bowser might have further to go than others and still may not be ready after being eligible to return last week.
Another is the quick turnaround. The Ravens left only about 12 hours after an utterly embarrassing loss on Sunday to the divisional rival Pittsburg Steelers in a game they should have won by multiple scores. It’s hard to imagine it was the most fun plane ride they’ve ever been on. The team and coaching staff are gonna have to show some real mettle during practice this week. It wouldn’t be the craziest thing if this embarrassing loss impacts the way this team moves forward, negatively or positively. This shouldn’t be a game they forget quickly and needs to be used as fuel for the rest of the season, but they can’t let it impact the next game either.
Other teams and even the NFL headquarters themselves will likely be watching to see how this week-long trip for the Ravens pans out. As mentioned earlier, there isn’t much data right now on travel for these international games. As the NFL adds more and more games in more and more different locations every year and looks to expand, any added experiences will be heavily looked at by everybody to see what edge or advantages might be gained.
Either way, it's a massive week for John Harbaugh. Fans and media are once again starting to question things after another close loss that the Ravens just couldn’t close out, something that's become a common theme in the last couple of years. Losing in such fashion is typically an indictment on the head coach (see questions after the Miami lost last year for instance), though this recent Pittsburgh game shouldn’t squarely fall on him (see eight dropped passes, including three potential touchdowns).
The drops were abhorrent but Lamar Jackson did the right thing over and over and over and over and over and over again. A shame. pic.twitter.com/LNmgzrwtYe— Spencer Schultz (@ravens4dummies) October 9, 2023
Whether or not Harbaugh is truly at fault for Sunday doesn’t really matter though. At the end of the day, he’s the head coach and there's been too many instances of this in recent years. He’s going to be one of the first guys looked at to blame and one of the first guys looked upon to help recover. This unique decision to leave so early for London will be over-analyzed. And if the Ravens lose, it will likely be largely blamed on in any immediate overreactions following the game.
This game in London could be one of the biggest turning points of the season. A rousing win in London after the 2017 debacle over a heavily disliked team in the Tennessee Titans, after losing to the Steelers in such ridiculous fashion, could be a massive momentum swing for this team. A team that is clearly very talented, both on defense and offense, but just needs to put it all together, especially on offense. Almost every game this year has had promising moments only to be ruined by untimely turnovers, mental mistakes, or poor decision-making.
A loss could be catastrophic, not necessarily for a playoff push, but in terms of bouncing back and showing you are as a unit with true aspirations of pushing for a championship in 2023. The Ravens would only move to 3-3 which is usually a good place to be after six games. But for a team that feels like it should be 5-0 right now with a massive lead in the division and a perfect three-for-three on road-divisional games, dropping another game against a poor team would be less than ideal. There are no easy wins in the NFL but the schedule on gets harder for the Ravens the deeper into the season they go.
For questions surrounding John Harbaugh, this is a good opportunity for him, Lamar Jackson, and the Ravens to silence the mob.