REPORT CARD: Ravens 37, Browns 27

Report Card REPORT CARD: Ravens 37, Browns 27

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REARVIEW MIRROR


 


BALTIMORE RAVENS 37

CLEVELAND
BROWNS 27

November 2, 2008


 

Composure!


 

Despite falling behind 27-13 to the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens maintained their composure.  But how many Ravens fans were able to do the same?  Who maintained faith that a rookie quarterback could stabilize the offense, on the road, inside hostile Cleveland Browns Stadium? Who believed that a decimated Ravens secondary could stop the bleeding and withstand the final twenty minutes to preserve a comeback win?


 

And yet that’s exactly what the Ravens were able to do Sunday against a Browns team that had been on a roll.  The Ravens entered this contest on a two-game winning streak, and the Browns had won three out of their last four games since losing 28-10 to the Ravens in

Baltimore
, back on September 21st.  That included impressive Browns wins against the Giants and Jaguars, and a close loss to the Redskins.


 

When they surged to take a 14-point, third-quarter lead over the Ravens, it appeared they might coast to another victory.  But the Ravens were able to turn the tide and come back for a road win. 


 

Sure, it helped the Ravens that Romeo Crennel put his offense on ice in the second half after taking that lead.  Despite the Ravens coming back with an immediate 79-yard scoring drive to pull within seven, at 27-20, with just 1:10 to go in the third quarter, the Browns still seemed determined to sit on their lead.


 

They sent former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis up the gut repeatedly in an effort to milk the clock.  His six carries during this momentum-shifting sequence netted just twelve yards, leaving

Anderson
in tough down-and-distance situations. 

Anderson
was only able to complete one, six-yard toss out of four attempts during three, critical possessions. 


 

With the Ravens defense holding

Cleveland
to three, three-and-outs, the Ravens offense was able to take advantage of premium field position on their next four possessions.  Their average starting spot was their own 36 during this game-changing sequence of events.


 

It was here where Browns lost their momentum, lost their home field advantage, and lost the game to the Ravens. Once the tables were turned, it was Anderson who was challenged to move his team down the field for a come-from-behind score – one that eluded the Browns’ offense.


 

The final dagger in the Brown come from behind effort was delivered by Terrell Suggs who returned his second career interception for a touchdown – the second in the last 3 games.  


 

Was Suggs’ interception on a badly thrown screen pass the career-changing moment for Derek Anderson?  Time will tell.  Romeo Crennel stubbornly stood behind

Anderson
earlier in the season when “DA” played poorly.  But for the
Cleveland crowd chanting the name of back-up quarterback Brady Quinn, there seemed to be little doubt about

Anderson
’s future.  Crennel may have little choice now but sideline

Anderson
’s career and kick off Quinn’s.


 

On the opposite sideline, for Joe Flacco, it may have been the defining game of his rookie season. Ravens’ coaches have slowly loosened the reigns on Flacco with each passing week.  And then Sunday, when there was little other choice, they let the

Delaware
rookie loose.  It will be interesting to watch how the season unfolds now, with tough, NFC East defenses still looming on the schedule.  But for one decisive game, was the deliverer of hope to Ravens fans, who have waited a long time to see an offense this exciting.


 

Quarterback: B+


 

There appeared to be more confusion than usual getting the offense out of the huddle and snapping the ball in the allotted time. Because of it, perhaps, Joe Flacco seemed out of sync early. He still struggled a bit on the speed of his progressions and was quick to throw away balls.  He did, however, make progress throwing the long ball this week.  Mark Clayton dropped a very well thrown ball in the end zone.  But the two connected on the second try for a long touchdown, with Clayton making a more difficult catch to beat Brandon McDonald.  On another long attempt to Clayton Joe put too much air under the ball, particularly for a smaller receiver in traffic.  Flacco continues to impress on third downs, when the pressure to perform is greatest. He shook off a sack to keep a critical drive alive with a strike to Mason on third and 16.  It was probably the play of the game for the offense. The two connected later for a touchdown when the Browns rushed nine, Flacco made the read, and got the ball out in time for Mason to beat one on one coverage in the flat.  For the day, Flacco was 17/29 for 248 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.   It was his best performance since the

Miami
game two weeks prior, and the 109 passer rating reflects it.  Perhaps most encouraging, it was the third consecutive contest without an interception, after turning it over three times to the Colts in Indianapolis.


 

Running Backs: A


 

Willis McGahee was listed as questionable all week with an ankle injury.  But the fact that he didn’t start, or play at all, was a minor but ultimately pleasant surprise given the way another rookie was able to contribute to the Ravens success on offense.  Ray Rice received only his third start of the year, but for the first time he made a case for himself as a bona fide NFL starting running back. He was remarkable in his ability to squirt free for extra yards and move the chains.  His ability to read the blocks of his linemen is still a work in progress, but he made up for it with an elusiveness rarely seen in Ravens runners.  His fantastic day was capped with a sixty-yard scamper midway through the fourth quarter for one near touchdown. It was a real back breaker for the Browns. And it must have seemed like the bad old days for Browns fans, watching a Ravens running back rack up the yardage.  Rice had 21 carries for 154 yards, which gave him a 7.3-yard average. He added 22 yards receiving on three catches, and it would have been more if Flacco had not thrown behind Rice in the seam early in the game.  Le’Ron McClain showed both nimble feet and power running on his 14 carries for 34 yards, including a touchdown.  Both backs were also excellent in picking up blitzers.   Lorenzo Neal had more trouble, particularly with the Browns’ Kamerion Wimbley.


 

Wide Receivers: A-


 

With the Browns keying on Mason early, Mark Clayton had a breakout game. He made a case for himself as a deep threat, after spending most of his career running curls and diving for yards after the catch.  After dropping a catch in end zone, Clayton made a tougher catch for his first touchdown of the year. He also hauled in intermediate throws for first downs.  When Brandon McDonald was finally able to clamp down on Clayton, the Ravens directed their aerial attack towards Derrick Mason who beat the Browns regularly on the opposite side.  Together, Mason and Clayton combined for 13 catches and 223 yards, with the two scores.


 

Tight Ends: C


 

The tight end has practically disappeared from the Ravens offense. On the plus side, Todd Heap blocked extremely well throughout the game. However, he did get flagged for two false starts.    He was not thrown to once during the entire game.


 

Tackles: B+


 

Flacco received excellent protection from his tackles all game long.  Jared Gaither had a particularly good game, pushing defenders all over the field.  Andre Davis will surely be glad to be done with the Ravens for the year. Willie Anderson had another nice game. If the Ravens put together a gag reel,

Anderson
will make the highlights for the block he threw out in space when he got turned around and managed to swing his ample hindquarters to knock a defender away from the play.  Adam Terry was able to get off the injury list and into the game as an extra blocker in Cam Cameron’s unbalance line calls.  On the goal line Haloti Ngata got into the game again as an extra tackle and made the most of it with a flying forearm shiver that literally lifted Andre Davis off his feet.


 

Interior Line: B


 

Shaun Rogers, the massive Browns nose guard gave this unit fits early, but they rebounded and got the upper hand later in the game.  Ben Grubbs could not handle

Rogers
on stretch blocks.  He also held

Rogers
on a penalty that was mistakenly attributed to right tackle Willie Anderson. 

Rogers
caused center Jason Brown to completely whiff on one block.  But Brown played well otherwise, including a nice pancake of Andre Davis on a pitch right to Rice.  Overall the group provided excellent pass protection for Flacco.  Chris Chester redeemed his poor performance from a week ago with an excellent game.  He is vastly improved from last year.  He also chimed in with his own pancake block on Rodney Poole during McClain’s touchdown run. 

Chester
is moving very well in space and has improved his leverage in the trenches.


 

Defensive backs: C+


 

This group survived against strong receivers, but not without incident.  With Frank Walker and Fabian Washington starting for the injured Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, Ravens fans might have expected worse. But the cornerback tandem played tight coverage early, even on one-on-one schemes.  Later, they relaxed coverage and Derek Anderson was able to start picking them apart. 
Washington, not known as a strong tackler, belied that label and closed strong at the goal line to force a

Cleveland
field goal to keep the game locked at 10-10.  But Walker and Ed Reed both failed to stop Jason Wright on another goal line plunge.  Corey Ivy and Evan Oglesby were more suspect in coverage, and Oglesby was lucky that Braylon Edwards dropped a long pass when the Browns were attempting to regain the lead.  Corey Ivy plays well as a nickel, but poorly on the edges.  At safety, Jim Leonard provided very good coverage. He did fail to bring down

Anderson
for an early sack, which is an ongoing problem for the Ravens safeties in blitz packages.


 

Linebackers: B


 

This group continues to control the line of scrimmage.  Bart Scott was in on a team-high ten tackles.  They were less successful however in pressuring the quarterback.  Terrell Suggs was relatively quiet until his interception.  They are at their weakest in coverage, and were repeatedly a step late when

Anderson
was able to throw over or between them to do most of his damage for the day.  Ray Lewis asserted himself on each of his four tackles, but he also was guilty of a blatant pass interference on Kellen Winslow.


 

Defensive Line: A


 

Haloti Ngata deserves the game ball for his performance. He was a dominate run stopper while improving on his pass rushing when given the chance.  Trevor Pryce and Justin Bannan played well together to get pressure with just a four-man rush, including Pryce’s sack of

Anderson
, the lone sack of the day for the Ravens.   Justin Bannan was able to knock down a third down pass attempt that would have probably been a drive-extending catch for the Browns.  The Ravens continued their streak of holding runners under 100 yards. Jamal Lewis netted just 49 yards on 19 attempts.


 

Special Teams: D


 

On the plus side, Matt Stover was perfect on his three field goals and four extra points.  However, the Ravens declined to try a 51-yard field goal, instead opting to punt, whereas the Browns Phil Dawson managed 54-yarder.  Koch was less effective in his punts, kicking one into the end zone and another 37-yarder out of bounds. Still, he managed a 59-yard boomer later to reverse field position for his team.  Nick Griesen had a particularly bad day in covering kicks. Despite promoting kicker Steven Hauschka to the active roster, Matt Stover handled kick off duties, which started to look like a bad call. Joshua Cribb’s 90-yard kick off return for a touchdown seemed, for a while, to be the game changing moment.  Through the first half the Browns had 134 yards of kick off return yardage to the Ravens zero.  Ray Rice was forced to kneel in the end zone on most of the kicks, and when he didn’t have to kneel, he muffed a kick and was forced to fall on it.   The Ravens shuffled Ed Reed, Jim Leonard and Yamon Figurs back into punt return duty.  Figurs made the most of his chances with a daring catch and return to give the Ravens the ball on the Browns 42 to start the fourth quarter.  Brendon Ayanbadejo played well in coverage.


 

Coaching: C


 

There was too much confusion on getting plays and personnel onto the field, even for a road game. The team was forced to burn timeouts.  The Ravens were also slow to challenge some questionable calls, including Wright’s dive to the pylon and Ray Rice’s tightrope walk to the end zone where he was called out of bounds.  Still, the Browns made worse coaching decisions, failing to decline a Ravens holding penalty that would have pushed them out of field goal range, and sitting on a lead with a suspect defense on the field. The Ravens offensive line coach John Matsko deserves special notice for the progress made by his young line, and the ability to hold the group together through injuries to the starters.


 

Officiating: C


 

Scott Green’s crew should be commended for not calling too many unnecessary penalties.  Still, they missed a few, too. They misidentified a hold by Grubbs.  They overlooked an obvious off sides by the Browns defensive line that forced Flacco to scramble.  There was a questionable spot on a Rice run that forced a Ravens punt. And there were missed calls at the goal line where runners stepped out and it was overlooked, and a runner stayed in but was called out.


 

Broadcast: B


 

Rich Gannon continues to be outspoken and on the money with most of his comments. He was particularly good at pointing out the Ravens confusion with shuttling plays in and out, and showing near outrage over the way the Ravens attempted to draw the Browns off-sides by lining up to go for it on a fourth-and-short situation far back at their own end of the field.


 

The Ravens take their 5-3 record on the road again next week against the Houston Texans, in a make up game for the hurricane-drenched contest originally scheduled for Week Two.  After their emotional win against the Browns, and prior to having to face the high-profile Giants, it will be interesting to see if the Ravens can maintain their edge against the 3-5 Texans, who are coming off a 28-21 loss in

Minnesota
.

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Steve Hasler

About Steve Hasler

March 29, 1984. Steve Häsler was attending college in Gambier, Ohio when the phone rang in his dorm room. His parents were calling with disturbing news – our beloved Colts had poured the entire organization into Mayflower vans and left town. For the next four autumns, Steve was forced to watch football with Browns fans, unsympathetic to the plight of losing a hometown team. By 1987 he was back in Baltimore, working in advertising, and attending the Towson Fourth of July every year just to hear the Baltimore Colts Marching Band play the old fight song as they waddled by. It made his mother cry every year. And yes, he called his old Ohio roommates back in 1995 just to make sure they heard the news that he once again he was going to have a team to root for. Steve has been opining on all things Ravens pretty much since the invention of message boards. You may know him as Shas. More from Steve Hasler

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