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Minimizing Miscues Key To Curing Road Woes

The Ravens will likely to have to win on the road Sunday to avoid going back on the road.

Posted by Garrett Downing on Saturday, December 31st, 2011 at 8:25 am | Categories: Garrett Downing, Week 17 at Bengals

One blemish on Baltimore’s resume this season has been the struggle to win away from home.

All four of the Ravens losses have come on the road, and their most recent trip away from M&T Bank Stadium to play San Diego resulted in the most lopsided loss of the season.

The Ravens hit the road again this weekend, hoping to beat the Bengals to finish the regular season with a .500 road record and guarantee they aren’t back on the road to open the postseason. Accomplishing that won’t come easy, as the Bengals have consistently played Baltimore tough and the Ravens have won in Cincinnati just once in the last six seasons.

“We understand that in order to get home playoff games, we need to win on the road this week,” tight end Dennis Pitta said. “You just got to play well and limit the mistakes. When you make mistakes on the road, it compounds it that much more.”

All of the Ravens’ losses have come against teams that had losing records at the time Baltimore played them. Tennessee (8-7) is the only team to beat Baltimore that now has a winning record.

In the Ravens’ losses this year, turnovers and early deficits have cost them – they have a -8 turnover margin in the four losses – and avoiding those kinds of mistakes will be crucial on Sunday.

“You can look at every one of our games,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said, “whether the ball got over our head, whether we turned the ball over, whether we didn’t convert on third downs or we didn’t stop them on third downs. Whatever it was, it was a combination that gave the other team hope – gave the other team momentum. And that’s the things you can’t do when you go on the road.”

The road woes have been new to the Ravens this season, as they are 16-15 over the course of John Harbaugh’s tenure in Baltimore. The Ravens have shown this season that they can win on the road, as they did in Pittsburgh in a primetime game, and Harbaugh doesn’t plan to make any sweeping changes to the team’s preparation heading into the final week of the season.

“We’ve got a good routine,” Harbaugh said. “It’s proven [and] we’re going to try to play better than we have in the games we didn’t win on the road. That’s the main thing.”

The other necessity, Lewis said, is to bring two critical elements to the game.

“When you go on the road, you’ve got to pack a heck of a running game and you’ve got to pack your defense,” he said.

Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice has played extremely well in the last month and has averaged 22 carries for 112 yards in the last four games. If the Ravens get an early lead they may try to minimize the crowd by running the ball and milking the clock.

That crowd could be factor this week, which is something not many visiting teams have faced this year in Cincinnati.  The Bengals offered a two-for-one ticket deal to season ticket holders for this week’s game, and ended up selling out for just the second time this season.

With a capacity crowd expected and a Bengals’ playoff bid at stake, the Ravens know they have to take the crowd out of the game early and cut down on the miscues.

“You have to calm the crowd,” Lewis said. “You can’t go make mistakes in somebody’s opposing stadium.”
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