Baltimore Ravens  

 

Baltimore Ravens battling post-Super Bowl title challenges

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Last Sunday, Joe Flacco's day began early, with a 5:30 a.m. phone call from his wife, telling him she was in labor with the couple's second child.

Ninety minutes before kickoff, Daniel Flacco was born. After the Baltimore Ravens dispatched the Cleveland Browns, 14-6, Joe Flacco drove home to New Jersey to see his wife, Dana, and newborn son.

How's that for a super Sunday?

"Anytime you have a child, it's one of your best days," Flacco said. "The game didn't go exactly how we wanted it to, but that's how we've won football games around here. Sometimes you have to do it in an ugly way."

After winning Super Bowl XLVII in February, the Ravens are finding, as all champions do, that they now are the hunted and not the hunter.

Peyton Manning hung seven touchdown passes on them in a season-opening loss. The Browns, then with Trent Richardson, gave the Ravens everything they could handle, on an afternoon when they raised their championship banner.

The Ravens will continue to honor their past this Sunday, inducting Ray Lewis into the team's Ring of Honor. And they will face the Houston Texans, a team that believes it is poised to contend for the Lombardi Trophy this season -- and now includes Ed Reed, the 11-year Raven who left in free agency this past offseason.

"They have a lot of capable guys that can beat you, and that's scary," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said of the Texans. "(With) the personnel Houston (has) … they've shown they can win in more ways than one."

The Ravens defeated the Browns largely because the defense, with six new starters, shut out Cleveland in the second half. "The only people who hit the panic button was y'all," Suggs told reporters after the win. "We told ya'll we got it. We knew there were some things we had to correct."

After the loss to the Broncos, Suggs said the only lasting effect was that the Ravens would not go undefeated "and I think the whole world knew that going in."

He also said: "But I guarantee they will see us again."

If so, that would be in the playoffs. And the Ravens have a lot of questions to answer between now and then.

The running game has yet to find its stride, and Ray Rice has an injured hip. Not only has the defense undergone an extreme makeover, it's trying to replace two franchise players. Flacco signed a big new contract but is off to an average start this offseason.

But the Ravens have faced challenges before. They lost four of their last five regular-season games a year ago, yet wound up playing the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans. Surely, they'll draw on those experiences as they try to overcome this season's adversity. And, maybe, they'll also find inspiration every time they look at that 2012 championship banner. As coach John Harbaugh said, "It means something, it really does. You can't let it distract you, but at the same time it's a pretty powerful thing."

Follow Kimberly Jones on Twitter @KimJonesSports

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