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Struggling Baltimore Ravens look to regroup during bye week

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth quarter on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

By Todd Karpovich, The Sports Xchange
OWINGS MILLS, Md.

The bye came at the perfect time for the Baltimore Ravens, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

Baltimore has lost three straight games, falling to 4-5 on the season. The Ravens likely need to go 6-1 or possibly 5-2 the rest of the way to snap a three-year playoff drought.

There has already been speculation that the Ravens could part ways with Harbaugh and several veterans, such as quarterback Joe Flacco and linebacker Terrell Suggs, if they fail to make the postseason.

Harbaugh dismissed the outside noise and is confident the Ravens can rebound from the recent skid. Several players who have struggled with injuries should be healthy with the extra week of rest and could be ready Nov. 18 against the Bengals.

"It's been a tough stretch," Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. "We've played three really good football teams the last three games. We haven't won them. Two of the three have been really tight, good football games, and we didn't do enough to win one, two or any of those games, so that's the difficult part. The 'plus' part is they're good football teams, and we've been going hard. Our players have been playing hard."

Baltimore suffered a disheartening 23-16 loss to the Steelers in Week 9. The Ravens played without both starting offensive tackles -- Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and James Hurst (back). Jermaine Eluemunor, who was recently promoted from the practice squad, replaced Stanley, the team's 2016 first-round pick. Rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. took over for Hurst.

However, Flacco was under pressure for much of the game and was sacked twice. After a strong start to the season, Flacco has faltered over the last three games. He will need to regain his form for the Ravens to have any chance at getting back into the playoff hunt.

"There's always pressure on every team to go win football games," said Flacco, who was 22-of-36 passing for 209 yards for a 77.2 passer rating against Pittsburgh. "It doesn't matter what your record is. It comes down to one game for a lot of teams in this league at the end of the day.

"Obviously, it's not ideal that our record is what it is, but we always talk about when you're worried about the outcomes of things, and you're looking too far ahead and worrying about things that aren't in our control quite yet, you get yourself in trouble. It's tough to do that, but you have to be mentally strong, and just be able to focus on the task at hand and move on."

The Ravens have a glimmer of hope because the first-place Steelers (5-2-1) have a tough remaining schedule with games against the Panthers, Chargers, Patriots, Bengals and Saints. Baltimore can help its own cause by beating second-place Cincinnati (5-3) after the bye.

Harbaugh said the extra rest will help his team get back into a groove.

"We're probably a step off just because it's Week 9," he said. "This week is going to help us. It's going to help us pick that step back up. I'm really excited about that."

NOTES:

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LT Ronnie Stanley (ankle) was inactive against the Steelers after missing practice last week. He was the team's first-round pick in 2017 from Notre Dame. Quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked twice with him out of the lineup. Stanley has also dealt with foot and arm injuries this season but has only missed one game.

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RT James Hurst (back) missed his third consecutive game. The Ravens hope to get him back in the lineup following this week's bye. Hurst is a valuable lineman capable of playing multiple positions.

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OL Jermaine Eluemunor, who was recently promoted from the practice squad, replaced Ronnie Stanley, who was out with an ankle injury. Eluemunor played 61 snaps. He was penalized for holding and for a false start. "I had some ups and downs," he said. "I definitely learned a lot." Eluemunor was a fifth-round pick from Texas A&M in the 2017 NFL Draft.

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OL Orlando Brown Jr. started for the third consecutive game in place of the injured James Hurst at right tackle. Brown played 61 snaps and was penalized once for holding. However, he has not allowed a sack or quarterback hit this season, according to Pro Football Focus. The rookie was a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft after earning All-American honors at Oklahoma in each of the last two seasons. He is also the son of the late Orlando Brown Sr., who played six years with the Ravens. "He's like his dad, and that's the greatest compliment that I or anybody else could give him. It's fun watching him develop," Harbaugh said.

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LG Alex Lewis made his first start since suffering a pinched nerve in his neck against the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 14. He played 61 snaps. Lewis received a penalty for holding, which the Steelers declined.

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Sports - U.S. Daily News: Struggling Baltimore Ravens look to regroup during bye week
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