Two things stand out from the Ravens’ impressive opening-day triumph:
1) John Harbaugh’s teams always get better as the season progresses. They are always a much better team in December than they were in September. The 35-7 rout of the Steelers sets the bar very high for the rest of the season, though. It’s hard to imagine playing better or winning by more points, but as the players realize, there is nevertheless room for improvement.
2) The seven turnovers caused by the defense established a team record. That is notable. Since 2000, the Ravens lead the NFL with 372 takeaways. (Second-place Carolina has 357.) Indeed, it was a feeding frenzy reminiscent of the Super Bowl season of 2000, when the Ravens amassed 49 takeaways and finished with a plus-23 turnover ratio. Turnovers are the quickest way to dismantle any team. Field position, if not always points, is the obvious net gain.
Those two elements may be harbingers of a special season. Or they could be nothing more than an indication of how badly the Ravens wanted to disprove Pittsburgh’s supposed superiority. We start to find out today when they play the Titans in Nashville.
The Ravens will not hold the emotional edge against the Titans. Tennessee played poorly in a loss at Jacksonville, and the Titans will want to redeem themselves in front of their home fans. Summoning the same intensity they had against Pittsburgh will be difficult for the Ravens.
But this team is talented and experienced enough to handle it. There will be several games like this – including next week’s game in St. Louis – where they will be expected to beat a lesser team on the road. That, too, has been the mark of Harbaugh’s teams, beating the teams you are supposed to defeat.
Unlike last week, the Ravens are nursing injuries. Left guard Ben Grubbs, who has never missed a Ravens game, might miss today with a toe injury. Cornerbacks Chris Carr (hamstring) and Jimmy Smith (ankle) are definitely out. Fortunately, cornerback is one position the Ravens have ample reserves. But those reserves will be tested.
In fact, the character of this Ravens team will be tested in Nashville. Handling success is sometimes more difficult than dealing with adversity. That’s why you have team leaders, and the Ravens are loaded there, too.