By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
2:09 PM PDT, September 16, 2011
From the second they walked off the field after their 35-7 dismantling of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the Ravens have said all the right things.
As dominating and satisfying as their performance was, they were quick to remind anybody who would listen that it didn't change a thing, not their goals or expectations, not their opinion of themselves and certainly not their preparation for what lies ahead.
After weeks of having nothing but the rival Steelers on their mind, the Ravens' challenge Sunday is a little different. Facing the Tennessee Titans at LP Field, the Ravens will try to avoid following the much-celebrated beatdown of Pittsburgh with a huge letdown.
"It doesn't matter what their record is, how they're portrayed in the media or on film. We'll treat them with respect and go after them like they're the No.1 team in the league," Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda said. "We were all excited about that [Steelers'] win, but you know what? We've moved on from it now. We understand that win, lose or draw in the NFL, you have to move on. Otherwise, this business would eat you alive."
The Titans have a first-year head coach in Mike Munchak; a veteran quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, who is essentially keeping the spot warm until first-round pick Jake Locker is deemed ready; and a star running back in Chris Johnson, who missed most of training camp because of a contract holdout, then rushed for just 24 yards in a 16-14 Week 1 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Asked Wednesday what concerned him about facing the Titans, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, "Well, how long you got?"
Harbaugh cited the dynamic Johnson, who is expected to have a much greater role in the Titans' offense Sunday, play-making wide receiver Kenny Britt and a veteran offensive line.
That the term "letdown" has even been mentioned by the media at the Ravens' facility this week inspired a rebuttal Friday by Harbaugh, who termed it "foolishness."
"We have guys that understand that every week in this league, you're playing a very good football team," Harbaugh said. "Every time we've gone into one of those games, it gets characterized as a letdown game, or all the terms that you guys use, but none of our guys are foolish enough to use. It's just foolishness to put a tag on it like that. It makes no sense at all, so I'm embarrassed for you when you even say that. There's no such thing as that in the National Football League. Every game is a challenge.
"We keep saying it, and you guys keep asking the same questions. We will be ready to play on Sunday. We're playing a very good football team. … You want to write a story about that, and there is no story because this is the National Football League and the Tennessee Titans are a very good football team who are ready to play us."
The thought was also quickly dismissed in every corner of the Ravens' locker room.
"Those are professionals over there," said safety Ed Reed, who picked off two passes against the Steelers, giving him the 13th multi-interception game of his career. Reed is expected to play a big role Sunday, helping out on Britt and anchoring a Ravens secondary that has been hit hard by injuries. "They had a tight game at Jacksonville last week, and we had a grueling game against our divisional opponent. We're not thinking about that, and if we did, it wouldn't be a letdown because it's still a long season. We're going to be prepared to play this game."
The Ravens have proven in the past that they are able to move on from big victories, tough losses and their annual grudge matches against the Steelers. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 4-2 in regular-season games after Steelers week.
They've also managed to avoid getting beaten by opponents they should handle, going 18-1 against teams with sub-.500 records in the Harbaugh era. The lone loss came Week 2 last season, when the Ravens followed an emotional opening win against the New York Jets with a 15-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, who had been 0-1.
The Ravens' roster has undergone significant changes since then, and very few players remain from when they and the Titans had one of the budding rivalries in the NFL about a decade ago. That seems so long ago to Tennessee, which has lost nine of its past 10 regular-season games dating to last season, and now has to face a team that was at its best in pretty much every facet the previous weekend.
While the Titans went three and out in six of their 11 possessions against Jacksonville, the Ravens, with accurate passing by Joe Flacco and a heavy dose of running back Ray Rice, amassed 385 total yards against the Steelers' vaunted defense. While the Titans' defense was gouged for 163 rushing yards, the Ravens contained Rashard Mendenhall, sacked nemesis Ben Roethlisberger four times and forced a franchise-record seven turnovers.
"The Ravens just played an amazing game — seven turnovers, real physical up front," Hasselbeck said. "It was impressive. For any team that has to turn on that film looking at that next opponent, they definitely made that statement."
The statement the Ravens are planning to make Sunday is that they have moved past the Steelers' win and are ready to put forth another performance befitting of one of the league's elite teams.
"It's a little bit more personal with the last [opponent] than it is with this one," said linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had three sacks last week. "But it's always business as usual."
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