BALTIMORE — Willis McGahee scampered into the end zone twice without even being grazed, dashing away from a hapless defense hampered by inferior speed and willpower.
Joe Flacco had more than enough time to exploit a pedestrian pass rush and a suspect secondary, generating another unprecedented amount of passing yardage with 342 yards.
The special teams uncharacteristically contained explosive returner Joshua Cribbs.
And the Baltimore Ravens’ defense intercepted Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson four times with the offense capitalizing for three scores off those turnovers.
Ultimately, the first-place Ravens manufactured a thorough, old-fashioned whipping of a bumbling opponent ill-equipped to provide much resistance.
The Ravens’ 34-3 victory Sunday over the Browns before 70,950 at M&T Bank Stadium boosted Baltimore to the second 3-0 start in franchise history, sending their AFC North counterpart into a deep, dark 0-3 hole.
Between a potent offense that scored on all five of its possessions before halftime and an opportunistic defense, this game was never competitive.
“It feels like a marriage now, know what I mean,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “Everybody is doing their part."
And the lopsided win was a testament to coach John Harbaugh’s ability to get the Ravens to believe that the Browns had to be taken seriously despite the fact that they’ve now been outscored 95-29 this season.
The Ravens were up by a touchdown on a seven-yard McGahee run less than five minutes into the game.
“You’ve got to go back to coach Harbaugh, he put it in our heads that we’ve got to go out there and start fast and finish strong,” said McGahee, whose two touchdown runs gives him six for the season to lead the NFL. “Right there, we sent a message to the Browns and to whoever else we are going to play.”
McGahee’s score was set up by cornerback Domonique Foxworth intercepting his first pass as a Raven on the Browns’ opening drive.
Quinn telegraphed a pass intended for Braylon Edwards, a predictable nature that would get him benched at halftime.
“We came out really smoking right out of the tunnel,” Harbaugh said. “They understood this game for what it was and they took care of business in a way that they had to take care of in this particular game, and they did it right out of the gate.”
Pouncing on the Browns right away, the Ravens built a 20-0 halftime lead.
The Ravens had 19 first downs and 269 yards of total offense in the first half compared to the Browns’ four first downs and 78 total yards.
Installed as a two-touchdown favorite, the Ravens behaved that way as they confidently imposed their will on a Cleveland team that seems to be imploding and rebelling against coach Eric Mangini’s discipline.
Several players have reportedly filed grievances against Mangini through the union for being fined as much as $1,701 for failing to pay for a $3 bottle of water in a hotel room and a $6 movie.
"I’ve dealt with a lot of football players over time and I feel very comfortable with my ability to deal with people," Mangini said. "I think it’s an important thing to be able to teach and coach and to demand high expectations from the people that play for you, and that’s something that I fundamentally believe in."
The Ravens piled up 28 first downs and 479 yards of total offense, limiting Cleveland to 186 yards and 11 first downs with an average of 3.6 yards per play.
Despite the Browns’ ineptitude and internal problems, the Ravens didn’t get overconfident.
“That’s what you have to do as an NFL team,” said Flacco, who completed 25 of 35 passes for 342 yards and one touchdown pass for a 111.8 quarterback rating. “You can’t take anybody more light than the other guy.
“Cleveland had two losses and had a lot to play for. We knew that, so we had to make sure we came out ready to go from the beginning.”
It wasn’t only the opening act that was a crowd-pleaser.
Midway through the third quarter, running back Ray Rice scored his first career touchdown on a nine-yard sweep as he ran away from the Browns’ much slower linebackers.
Rice relied on some advice from fullback Le’Ron McClain in staking the Ravens to a 27-0 lead.
“Le’Ron read the play out for me before we ran the play,” Rice said. “He said, ‘Don’t be afraid to bounce. Use your speed, trust your speed.’ And that’s exactly what I did.
“It took me a long time, but I was patient. It definitely felt good to get one in. I’m sure that will be the first of many.”
Wide receiver Derrick Mason caught the 800th pass of his career in the first half.
In the fourth quarter after strong safety Dawan Landry picked off an obvious Anderson pass deep over the middle, Mason came back for the ball before streaking away from Browns cornerback Brandon McDonald with an inside move to complete a 72-yard touchdown catch.
Mason finished with five receptions for 118 yards.
“Derrick, thanks for not retiring,” said Harbaugh, referring to Mason’s three-week retirement this summer. “He’s a playmaker, and he does it in so many different ways.
“He’s the best route-runner that I’ve seen in the time that I’ve been in the NFL. If he’s not an elite receiver in the NFL, I don’t know who is.”
Defensively, the Ravens limited the Browns to 115 net passing yards and 71 rushing yards.
One week after allowing San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to rack up 436 yards, the secondary redeemed themselves.
“I have to be honest, I feel less nauseous than last week,” said Foxworth, who dropped another potential interception that could have gone for a touchdown. “I’m still a little uncomfortable.
“I feel a lot better than last week, but there’s still a little bit of stink on my back. I have to wash it off.”
The Ravens nearly had a shutout until Billy Cundiff hit a 29-yard field goal five seconds into the fourth quarter, a score set up by a 25 yard pass interference infraction on safety Ed Reed. Down 27-0, Mangini had Cundiff kick it instead of going for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Ravens’ 12-yard line.
“I thought it was an uncatchable ball,” Reed said. “I was kind of caught in between going to get the ball or hit the man.
“They called it and took our shutout away. So, I told the guys, “I apologize.’ You just have to be smart about what you’re doing sometimes.”
It didn’t matter, though.
Not with Quinn going 6 of 8 for 34 yards and Anderson completing only 11 of 19 for 92 yards and three interceptions. They combined for a putrid 34.4 quarterback rating.
The Browns have only scored one touchdown on offense in their last nine games going back to last year.
The last time the Ravens were 3-0 was three years ago. They wound up winning the AFC North title that season.
“Hands down, we’re a rough, tough football team," McClain said. “And we’re led by the leader of all leaders in John Harbaugh.”
The undefeated Ravens are two games ahead of the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and one game ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.
"We don’t talk about it," Suggs said. "It’s kind of like when you’re throwing a no-hitter.”