NFL players often speak of a “24-hour” rule, meaning players give themselves 24 hours to bask in a victory before focus shifts to the next opponent. The rhythm of a season allows no luxury longer than that.
Sure enough, one day after the Ravens’ emotional 37-20 victory against previously undefeated New England, head coach John Harbaugh at his weekly news conference Nov. 4 stressed the Ravens already have started focusing on Week 10.
In the immortal words of New England coach Bill Belichick, whom Harbaugh bested Nov. 3, the Ravens are on to Cincinnati. The Ravens visit the Bengals Nov. 10.
While there is always concern that a team coming off such a win can get caught emotionally flat the next week, especially against a winless team such as the Bengals (0-8), Harbaugh said that shouldn’t be an issue with his team.
“I expect this [win] to motivate them, and excite them,” Harbaugh said. “If I know these guys at all, which I believe I do, they’ll be ready to go tomorrow and they’ll be working hard.”
Harbaugh acknowledged that the win against the Patriots before a packed house and a national “Sunday Night Football” audience was “probably more than a good win, but it’s behind us now. For us, our mindset is to get ready for the next game, which is Cincinnati, which is a rival game, in their stadium.”
Rookie Ryan Finley is expected to make his first career start at quarterback for the Bengals, who played the Ravens tough at M&T Bank Stadium just a month ago before falling, 23-17. The Bengals will be coming off their bye week and are expected to get several key players back from injury, including All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green, who has missed all season with an ankle injury.
The Ravens know that a loss at Cincinnati could partially negate the impressive back-to-back wins against the Seattle Seahawks and Patriots, and if Harbaugh needs any more motivation, he could remind his team that the Bengals have won six of the past seven meetings between the teams in Cincinnati.
As Harbaugh and his players have often said, the most important game is the next one.
“Believe me,” Harbaugh said, “that’s all we’re thinking about right now.”
HARBAUGH: ONWUASOR PLAYED ‘BEST GAME’ OF THE SEASON: After missing two games with an ankle injury, linebacker Patrick Onwuasor played “probably his best game” of the season in the win over the Patriots, Harbaugh said.
It was Onwuasor that forced the fumble returned for a touchdown by Marlon Humphrey in the third quarter with the Patriots threatening to take the lead, and Onwuasor also had a sack of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady earlier in the game. He finished with eight tackles, increasing his season-leading total to 38.
“He worked really hard to get back,” Harbaugh said, “He stepped up, obviously. … Probably his best game, I would say, for the year so far.”
HARBAUGH: SPECIAL TEAMS ‘INCONSISTENT’: After watching Cyrus Jones fumble away a punt return, Justin Tucker miss an extra-point kick — just the second time in his career that’s happened — and the Ravens produce little on kickoff returns against the Patriots, Harbaugh stressed that special teams play must improve.
Harbaugh expressed confidence in Jones, who has been otherwise sure-handed this year for the Ravens, but he added, “We’re always looking for players.”
Jones’ rookie season with the Patriots in 2016 was marred by fumbling problems. As for the kick return, rookie Justice Hill and Chris Moore totaled three returns for a 12.7-yard average against the Patriots, and Hill’s hold on the job has been tenuous because of some bobbled returns.
“Special teams generally is inconsistent right now,” Harbaugh said, adding, “Kickoff coverage wasn’t good enough. Kickoff return and punt return weren’t good enough. So we’re not happy with it. And we missed an extra point. … We have to get better there.”
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