Even if the Ravens beat the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, theres a bigger issue that must be addressed before its too late.
Can this defense prevent "chunk" plays and revert to the more traditional, hard-nosed outfit that has typified it in the past? Or will it morph into a bend-but-dont-break defense that continues to allow opponents to chew up yardage?
Going into Week 5, the Ravens are ranked 23rd in overall defense. Theyve given up 18 "chunk" plays -- gains of 20 yards or more -- through four games for 504 yards.
In their only loss, 24-23 to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, nine plays of that distance were allowed.
At this same point last season, the Ravens gave up 12 "chunk" plays for 383 total yards.
Taking on the Chiefs, who have lost three of four games, poses problems similar to Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who can extend plays and make something out of nothing with his legs.
Kansas City has big-play capability with running back Jamaal Charles, who goes into the game with 415 yards as the NFLs second-leading rusher.
"He's just a talented guy. He can burn the edge if he gets that chance," Ravens defensive end Pernell McPhee said. "If you peek in, he'll bounce it out."
Charles has the longest run from scrimmage for a touchdown as he went 91 yards against the New Orleans Saints.
Keeping Charles contained is a key to victory. With quarterback Matt Cassel being error-prone -- he has 10 of their NFL-high 15 turnovers -- the more he throws the better for Baltimore.
The Ravens allow 94.5 yards rushing, 13th-best in the league. Thats not far from 2011 when they had linebackers Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson and held teams to 92.6 yards rushing.
But a "chunk" play can change all of that. Even rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who threw for 320 yards for the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 27, converted four "chunk" plays against this defense.
The Ravens weren't able to put them away as winless Cleveland stayed alive throughout the 23-16 defeat.