Dec. 05-- BALTIMORE-The Ravens' biggest weakness is also their top strength.
They have no superstars, so they don't have to deal with the problems that come with them. No one complains about the lack of publicity or endorsements. There is no finger-pointing or talk about future contracts.
They just work.
The Ravens don't get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. The team's 44-20 win against the Detroit Lions on Sunday was the perfect example.
It was the Ravens' best overall performance of the season. They beat one of the NFL's top quarterbacks in Matthew Stafford, and the offense finally had some vertical plays as quarterback Joe Flacco emerged from a season-long funk.
The Ravens have won three straight and improved on their wild-card playoff position, and yet there wasn't any trash-talking in the locker room. The players celebrated, but they didn't go overboard.
They understand. They know they have flaws so that they have to remain focused.
Trash-talking has been the trademark of some Ravens teams. They had two of the best in the business in tight end Shannon Sharpe and linebacker Bart Scott. Those guys could back it up, but some others couldn't.
Coach John Harbaugh has done a good job of squelching most of the possible outside distractions. Players on the current roster don't often make comparisons with historically good Ravens teams. There isn't much talk anymore about being a great defense. In fact, defensive players have gone out of their way to support their counterparts on the offense.
As for Super Bowl talk, that is generated only from answers to direct questions from the media. Swagger? Great teams had it but they never talked about it.
The Ravens are far from being a great team, which is why Harbaugh stresses putting pieces together gradually. Without the superstars, there are no quick fixes.
"It's a team game," Harbaugh said. "Every game is going to play out differently. Next week is going to be a different game than this week. We have to find a way to win the next game, using all three phases. You know, pulling together and doing your best. Really, that's what it's all about. A little bit better, at this time of year, goes a long way.
"If you continue to improve in every area, just a little bit, it will pay off for us."
That's the hope.
"We're happy where we are," tight end Benjamin Watson said. "We're happy with winning, obviously. Anytime you win a game in this league, it's important. Going to Pittsburgh is going to be tough. Both teams are going to have to be ready. We're going to prepare this week and try to go into Pittsburgh and get a win.
"I think we're still working to get better. If we look at the film, there are still plays we should have made all the way around. There's going to be corrections to be made. It's satisfying to score some points, but, you know what, we have a lot of important football games to play, and we're going to have to play better."
The Ravens are serious. They aren't talking just to talk. They patched up communication problems in the secondary when they surfaced early in the season. They became dominant in stopping the run again soon after tackle Brandon Williams returned from an ankle injury.
On Sunday, after months of criticism, the Ravens finally compiled 294 yards of total passing as Flacco completed passes of 66, 17, 23, 18 and 14 yards. That's a big deal here in Baltimore.
Now, the question is, can they do it again? It's one thing to produce that type of offense against the Lions, who were so unorganized that they had nine players on defense during the most decisive third-down play of the game. It's another when you're playing against a defense coached by the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick or the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin.
"We've still got to get back to work and go do the same things week in and week out and put points on the board," Flacco said.
The Ravens developed one more problem Sunday. They lost their top cornerback Jimmy Smith for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Now they have to use young players, such as rookie Marlon Humphrey and second year player Maurice Canady, more regularly.
Defensive players felt sympathy for Smith, but it's not in the nature of this team to whine and curl up into the fetal position. The work ethic is too strong. They know they don't have the big-name playmakers and losing a top player like Smith just forces them to crawl, fight and scratch to win another game.
It's all about attitude.
"Honestly, I don't care about that," wide receiver Mike Wallace said of the Ravens' winning streak. "I just want to win, week in and week out. It doesn't matter if we're 15-0, if we lose, I would feel like we're 0-15. I would be hurt. It doesn't matter how many games we win at a time; it's about that game right there. This next game is huge for us, just to take a step in the right direction. These guys came to our field and beat us last time, so it's our turn to return the favor."
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