BALTIMORE RAVENS 25, CLEVELAND BROWNS 15
NOVEMBER 4, 2012
The Baltimore Ravens arrived in Cleveland riding an impressive set of statistical streaks that predicted victory. Under John Harbaugh they had already gone 9-0 against the Browns and had reeled off 14-straight wins following a loss.
So it seemed fitting that Baltimore would look very “streaky” in beating the Browns 25-15. The offense at first appeared to be in total rhythm, emphasizing the run and throwing when necessary to move the chains. Joe Flacco went 8-for-8 to start the game while leaning on Ray Rice runs to rush out to an early 14-0 lead.
But then the defense sagged, giving the home crowd reason to mount hope as the Browns began to chip away with five consecutive field goals, culminating in a fourth-quarter 15-14 lead.
Meanwhile, the Browns were taking advantage of suddenly weak-looking Ravens offense that appeared hell-bent on mixing in more tosses and fewer hand offs to Ray Rice. That lead to six consecutive three-and-outs from the end the first half extending into the first possession of the fourth quarter. It was as if the Ravens had come out of the tunnel dressed for Halloween as The Walking Dead in the third quarter.
Then, immediately after they had lost their lead midway through the fourth quarter, the offense finally re-awakened. After Joe Flacco skittishly misfired on a short out pattern that was juggled and dropped by Torrey Smith, he finally connected with Anquan Boldin down the middle for a 21-yard gain. That seemed to quiet the crowd, settle Flacco, and right the ship.
The Browns helped when T.J. Ward was flagged for clubbing Flacco across the helmet to move the chains once more. From there the offense was fully back on track handing off to Rice while the defense was able to finally grind Cleveland to a halt.
The win extended another streak for the Ravens, who are now 3-0 in the division–in fact their divisional win streak now stands at eleven straight games against the Browns, Bengals and Steelers.
Despite losing their way at times this season – losing key players to injuries and losing Ray Rice’s name in the play book – the Ravens are still 6-2 in an American Football Conference that lacks strong contenders.
Joe Flacco played flawlessly to start the game, pushing his passer rating over 100 in the first half. He looked best rolling to his right, throwing on the run, or setting up in the pocket behind Bobbie Williams pulling to the right. But the same Joe Flacco who has struggled on the road this year seemed to return in the second half as he guided errant throws all over the field. His confidence seemed to leave him until he hit Boldin for that 21-yard completion to start the second half. He finished the day 15 for 24 for 153 yards and a touchdown behind a game plan that emphasized the run.
Running Backs: A-
After seeing minimal snaps against Houston Vonta Leach was back, burying defenders on the edge and leading Ray Rice and the running game. Rice averaged 5.1 yards on 13 first-half carries and finished with 25 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown. He was only thrown to twice, catching both for six yards.
Spelling Rice, Bernard Pierce was a nice change of pace back, getting seven carries for 26 yards, including taking a pitch and making a deft tight-rope twelve-yard run on third and short. It was redemption for an earlier personal foul call; he needs to learn to control his emotions when defensive tackles are taking extra shots at him at the bottom of the pile.
Wide Receivers: B
While Ravens receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith only combined for nine catches and 103 yards, they were instrumental in bailing out the team in key situations. Boldin caught all five passes thrown his way, fighting off tight coverage and making tough catches in traffic. Smith secured the game-winning TD by utilizing his speed, spinning out of a curl route to sidestep the DB and free his path to the far pylon. Credit Boldin for freeing himself in the back of the end zone for a wide-open two-point conversion that gave the Ravens a 7-point cushion.
Tight Ends: C
Ed Dickson got the start over Dennis Pitta. He struggled a bunch with his blocking assignments, beaten badly by Frostee Rucker on more than one occasion. He also dropped a tough catch. Pitta snared a more difficult catch over the middle as D’Qwell Jackson laid him out. The two tight ends split two catches for 44 yards.
Michael Oher was as streaky as the team was in general. At times he got a good push at the point of attack. But he did not do much blocking at the second level, however. He and Kelechi Osemele were backed into Flacco for a sack, which was mostly a coverage sack. Osemele looked extremely athletic in space but was beaten with quickness at times in close quarters.
Interior Line: B-
Bobbie Williams made some nice contributions, looking good when plowing straight ahead or when he had time to set up in pass blocking. However he lacked quickness off the snap at the line of scrimmage against slanting defenders. Ditto for Matt Birk. Marshall Yanda yielded some time to Jah Reid at right guard. Reid did not play enough to evaluate. Yanda did get flagged for flinching on an offsides call.
Speaking of streaky, what do you make of Cary Williams? He started the game complaining he was held by a receiver down sideline and seemed to jaw his way through all the ups and downs of the game. He was often a few steps out of position, allowing easy underneath throws, peeking in the backfileld, or yielding inside position. But then he redeemed this sloppy play with a fantastic interception off his shoe-tops, hopping up, backtracking, and gaining 24 yards on the return.
Jimmy Smith looked raw, in better position, but missing tackles or getting flagged for pass interference.
Corey Graham played a nice game, with a couple stops on third down to force field goals. He also forced Weeden into taking a sack on a well-timed blitz.
Ed Reed struggled early with missed tackles and a flat out drop of an interception. He came close when he broke on a ball thrown to Mohamed Massaquoi, and then finally got his pick on the most difficult chance, falling back and grabbing an interception on his back shoulder. While the interceptions are dramatic, the missed tackling is a continuing concern.
Bernard Pollard was nearly invisible until he closed to make a tackle on a late third quarter swing pass. That seemed to energize him against the run. Still, he managed to hop on the pile for six tackle assists to go along with one solo tackle.
Dannell Ellerbe continues to be the most impressive linebacker in the middle, effective in coverage and making sure tackles at the line of scrimmage. He led the team with nine tackles. Jameel McClain was far less consistent. At times he made plays in the backfield. Other times he was out of position or getting flagged.
On the outside Albert McClellan was very steady and did a nice job directing the ball back to the middle of the field against the run. Courtney Upshaw made a number of impressive plays, chasing the ball carrier from the back side and eating up Trent Richardson on an inside handoff.
Paul Kruger did a nice job getting off blocks and stopping the run. Against the pass he offered little. He needs to ditch the side-to-side stutter-step at the line of scrimmage – it’s more of a dance move than a pass rush technique.
Terrell Suggs looked less explosive than he did two weeks ago in an adrenaline-fueled game against Houston. He was in on just four tackles and did not do much to pressure the quarterback.
Defensive Line: C-
Trent Richardson averaged over four yards per carry on 25 attempts and at times shredded the middle of the defensive line. Haloti Ngata didn’t appear to be at full strength and lacked quickness. Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Arthur Jones were frequently dominated by single blockers. Joe Thomas in particular physically dominated Jones. Terrence Cody continues to play inconsistently.
Special Teams: B
Chykie Brown, Anthony Allen and Sean Considine all stood out in kick coverage, keeping Josh Cribbs in check. Although Considine was caught holding on the kick return to start the second half, putting his team in an early hole. LaQuan Williams was also flagged for holding.
Sam Koch punted well and did a nice job snagging Morgan Cox’s high snap to allow Justin Tucker to nail a 43-yard field goal that secured the win.
Cam Cameron had the right idea to start the game by leaning on the running game, but lapsed into an impatient approach in the third quarter after the Browns got back into the game. He made a great call to pitch the ball to Bernard Pierce on third and short in the red zone. And the play design on the two-point conversion to free up Boldin in the end zone was excellent. The staff did not manage the clock well at the end of first half when they called timeout to get ball back and then gave the ball right back to the Browns to give up another quick field goal, which cut lead to 14-9 at halftime.