The Baltimore Ravens escaped Cleveland with a 25-15 win to push their division leading record to 6-2 and 3-0 in the AFC North. It was a game of highs and lows – really a microcosm of the season. The only predictable thing about the Ravens when they hit the road is that they are schizophrenically unpredictable.
But when all was said and done, the win was reminiscent of a pitcher who can’t consistently pound the strike zone but managed to battle through. They did what they needed to do to get the “W” and when you consider the landscape of the AFC, there isn’t a team without flaws.
The Ravens, flaws and all, still hold the No. 2 seed in the conference for the moment and while the path to 6-2 has been bumpy, it represents a record that optimists predicted for the team at the halfway mark of the season.
Can the team mend the multiple areas of weakness in the second half of the season? Time will tell, but until then, let’s assess yesterday’s win…
THE GOOD: Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce ran the ball effectively against a defense hell bent on stopping them, combining for 124 yards on 32 rugged carries. The tandem showed that they can be a very good 1-2 punch with Pierce showing steady development despite a less than productive training camp…Speaking of 1-2 punches, Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, while not posting prolific stats, certainly delivered during crunch time…Although he struggled mightly through the second and third quarters, Joe Flacco engineered a very efficient game winning drive capped by a great audible on the 2 point conversion that led to an easy toss for two to Boldin…Bobbie Williams rebounded nicely from an extremely sub-par game in Houston…Cam Cameron’s play calling on the opening two possessions was surprisingly surgical and exactly what the team needed coming off very poor performances away from M&T Bank Stadium.
Jimmy Smith, while still a bit raw, showed progress in Cleveland…Corey Graham was fast to the ball and was productive as the nickel defending the pass and doing his part to boost a shockingly inept pass rush.He was fortunate to have an 18 yard TD pass from Brandon Weeden to Gordon called back for an illegal formation…Dannell Ellerbe was the most efficient tackler on the field yesterday and provides a physical presence severely lacking from the LB corps…Courtney Upshaw continues on the upswing in his game.
THE BAD: The tackling was weak at times, particularly in the secondary with Ed Reed too often the culprit. Jimmy Smith needs to wrap up better too…Cary Williams, his interception aside, still looks lost in coverage. He wasn’t even in the same zip code on a post corner route by Josh Gordon…Sam Koch’s net punting average of 34.1 yards was disappointing.
THE UGLY: The offensive play calling from the 8:00 mark of the second quarter through the 9-minute mark of the fourth quarter was horrific. During 8 possessions the Ravens ran only 22 plays for a net of 8 yards! That accounted for only 8:59 of a possible 29:13 of game time. Granted one of the possessions was a kneel-down from Flacco to end the first half, but this equates to 7 competitive possessions without a single first down. The Browns sold out on the run and Cameron failed to use that overly aggressive run defense against Cleveland through play action…The Ravens pass rush was anemic and it is extremely worrisome what signal callers named Palmer, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Manning, Manning and even RGIII might do to the Ravens when seemingly the “pass rushers” count to 7-Mississippi before rushing the quarterback…The team amassed 9 penalties for 82 yards, continuing their extremely undisciplined play. However, it’s tough for head coach John Harbaugh to ask his team to play with discipline when his behavior on the sidelines is anything but. Harbs picked up his second bench unsportsmanlike conduct of the season.
SIDE BAR: This is just a question and not a criticism, but I’d like to know why Ray Lewis isn’t on the Ravens’ sideline?
THE MEGAN FOX: This was a tough call in that there really was no player who stood out as the player of the game. But given the Ravens return to their roots of a running game; given that the Browns knew such a rebirth might be attempted and invested defensive resources to thwart the effort, the Ravens still managed 124 tough yards on the ground even within the constraints of a completely vanilla game plan for nearly two full quarters. To get that done, the Ravens relied heavily on the battering ram that wears No. 44. Great game Vonta Leach.