John Harbaugh on being the #2 seed in AFC: “The goal is to come out of this week in championship form.”

January 6, 2012 – 8:45 am by Steven Cuce

The Baltimore Ravens have now made the playoffs for the 4th straight year under John Harbaugh. Baltimore is the lone NFL team to win a playoff game in each of the past three seasons, but they haven’t made it back to the Super Bowl since the 2000 season when they took down the New York Giants.

The AFC North champion Ravens (12-4) are enjoying their much deserved bye week after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals last week. Harbaugh believes his team needs to improve on every facet on their game, but more specifically on the special teams side of the ball. The Ravens will be playing either the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans or Denver Broncos next weekend.

John Harbaugh joined 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore with The Norris & Davis Show to discuss the Baltimore Ravens preparation this week without knowing their upcoming opponent yet, the injury concerns regarding Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the NFL changing so much now with a higher volume of passing each game and what the Baltimore Ravens are specifically working on in the bye week.

How do you prepare right now when you do not know who you are playing?

“Well you are right. We are not preparing for an opponent. We’re just working on football. We basically just went against each other goods against goods and we had various drills and different things we do. Yesterday was more of a passing day. Today will be a pressure day and run game day and we’ll just focus on more of the fundamentals and execution and timing. There’s a lot of little areas we can work on. Specific things that we feel need to get better at. We talked to our team yesterday. This is not a mid-season bye week where the goal of the bye week would be to come out in mid-season form. This is a playoff bye. The goal is to come out of this week in championship form. That is what we are trying to accomplish.”

Where is Ray Lewis in terms of playing every down? Where is Ed Reed at? Is Reed shying away from contact?

“I don’t see it that way. I think that obviously guys get in their careers when they are a little bit older I think those injuries are an issue for any players. Those guys do a great job dealing with the physical part of the game. I think they both remain really healthy of the course of the last 3 years. Ed has gotten healthier and healthier really since I have been here. This year probably more so than any other year. He’s been able to do the best job. He has gotten through the season the best he has. I think he is in good shape this year as we go into the playoffs. Ray had the issue with the toe, which is really the only issue he had in the last 4 years. He’s playing at a high level, but when you put on the tape they are both playing at a really high level. There is not any concern on my part or any of our coaches or any of our players for that matter that these two guys aren’t playing at an incredibly high level. You can put on any tape of any game of any player and you are going to find plays where they don’t – the opponent gets the best of them. That’s just the way football is. That’s just the way any sport is. You don’t bat .1000. You can put on the tape of the Bengals safety missing a tackle in the open field on Ray Rice that led to a touchdown and he’s not at the end of his career so to speak. That’s just the way it is. That is the way football works. It’s very competitive. It’s very tough. It’s very hard and sometimes you get knocked down and those guys are no exception, but over the years they have bounced back pretty well I would say to say the least. Two of the greatest players to ever play at their positions in the history of the sport.”

Any particular reason for the high amount of passing yards in the NFL this season from Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford? Is it an anomaly?

“I don’t know. It’s a good question. Historically what does it really mean? It’s pretty incredible what those guys have done as far as the passing numbers and all that kind of stuff. We haven’t played those teams, so specifically we really haven’t studied those teams per say. We are really looking forward and hoping for the chance to do that. That would be great to play one of those two teams [New Orleans Saints or Detroit Lions] or any other team from that conference here, before the end of this year. That would be our goal. The Patriots are another team that put up a ton of yards and everything, so if we could take care of business that could happen. We do believe in defense. We do believe in running the ball. We also believe in throwing the ball. We believe our quarterback is capable of putting up tons of yards in any given game. He had games this year where he’s had to air it out of the course of the last few years where he has had to air it out and win us games. I think back to days people forget sometimes about Joe [Flacco]. Arizona was obviously was an example this year, but Atlanta last year where we didn’t win the game, where the defense gave up a drive at the end down there in a tough environment. Joe was airing that thing out like crazy and got us back into the game and we overcame a two score deficit in the fourth quarter. That’s the nature of football. We have to be able to do that in this league. You have to be able to throw the ball, but our style is different than some of the other teams styles and we’d like to match up with one of those team and just kind of see how it would shake out right now if we could.”

What do you specifically work on in the bye week? Is it pass rush? Is it tackling? Special teams?

“It’s all the things that you are talking about that we think we can get better at. Specific tackling probably not so much. We don’t really get a chance to tackle. I think we are one of the best tackling defenses, if not the best tackling defense in football and that’s proven of the course of the season because we miss one tackle doesn’t mean we are not a good tackling team, but I talked about this on Monday specifically guys work on things they need to work on coming out of the game and through the course of the season and that’s true for Ed [Reed] and Ray [Lewis] as well. That’s true from all of ours guy from the 53rd guy right on through the top of the 1 or 2 guys. Terrell Suggs is working on specific things. Joe Flacco is working on things. Joe’s got some specific things he is working on with the receivers that he is working on. From a timing and route standpoint and we go against each other, so there is specific plays and concepts – offense and defense. We did some zone concept coverages that we thought we really had to work out yesterday in the passing practice. There were a couple of concepts they spent time working on and then as you said special team is a big thing. We had a long special teams session. We had a special teams meeting. We have a bunch of young guys on special teams and they are learning all the time and that is something we made a decision on this season that we were going to do. We could have brought some special teams players as core players. A lot of teams do. The Bengals have the best core units in football and they have a bunch of veteran special teams guys who know how to play. We didn’t go that route because of the roster turnover and I think that has been a little bit of a burden on Jerry Rosburg and some of our leaders like Brendon Ayanbadejo to help train the younger guys, but the goal for the next 3 games is to be the best special teams in the tournament. We spent a lot of time on that yesterday and we’ll spend a lot of time on that today.”

Listen to John Harbaugh on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore here

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