ESPN mocked the Ravens at Browns game leading into the contest. They continued their subtle mockery throughout, particularly Mike Tirico who described the game as entertaining, in a condescending kind of way, and as if the spirited play of the NFL’s JV-like teams surprisingly held his interest.
I get it. The game surprised me too.
Generally speaking I like Tirico. I think he’s the best play-by-play guy in the business. And his sidekick Jon Gruden entertains me with quips like, “Dwayne Bowe hasn’t been open since he arrived in Cleveland.”
Yet I couldn’t shake the dirty vibe thrown off by the pair who buried the Ravens in with these perennial cellar dwelling Browns, seemingly scoffing at them as second-class NFL citizens.
It all helped to make the win a bit sweeter.
Now if the Ravens v. Steelers Sunday Night game goes off as scheduled, I’m sure by the end of the night, perhaps sooner, I’ll be ready to choke Cris Collinsworth.
But I digress.
Back to Cleveland…
Those who regularly criticize offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, I don’t get you. It’s tough to expect The Beatles when you field the Bay City Rollers. Trestman crafted an excellent game plan to help protect the Pick-6 machine named Matt Schaub. He generally limited his quarterback’s throws to 3 and 5-step drops thus taking some of the pressure off the patchwork offensive line. Schaub was not sacked…Give the former Texan some credit for resiliency. It took some intestinal fortitude to absorb the pick-6 to Karlos Dansby and lead his team 99 ½ yards for a score…Kamar Aiken chipped in with a solid effort and was a determined runner after the catch. He led the Ravens with 6 catches for 80 yards and a score.
Although Chris Canty didn’t register stats, he was a force on the Ravens defensive front. He contributed a few pressures, held is ground in run support and created the opening along the Cleveland offensive front to allow Brent Urban to get his paw on Travis Coon’s potential game-winning field goal…Timmy Jernigan was menacing, knifing in to disrupt even when not receiving statistical credit. He had 3 tackles, 3 pressures and helped Elvis Dumervil on a sack…Dumervil statistically hasn’t had his best season as a Raven but he’s playing his best football since he arrived in Baltimore, particularly serviceable in run support. He contributed 1 ½ sacks and he pressured Browns’ quarterbacks (5) throughout the night…CJ Mosley was quick to the ball and had 2 tackles-for-loss although he shouldn’t be asked to cover speedy backs with great change of direction skills. Are you listening Mr. Pees?…Lardarius Webb seems to get better each week and was the surest tackler on the field…Shareece Wright became a Raven in October and had his debut against his old team, the 49ers. He seemed like a joke. No one is laughing now. Wright has been the team’s best DB in coverage for the last month. That didn’t change against the Browns. He was tested regularly and almost always had an answer.
How many of you asked, “Who is No. 81?” on the opening kickoff. No worries, NFL.com doesn’t recognize him much either (see profile picture above). BUT those in the dark discovered Kaelin Clay after he returned a punt 81 yards for the game’s first score…Overdue props to Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg whose teams are among the league’s best. Last night was the 5th consecutive game in which the Ravens blocked a kick or punt.
John Harbaugh’s inspiring leadership, as corny as it might be at times, cannot be understated. It doesn’t matter what the rest of us think. It only matters that the players buy in – and obviously they do with as evidenced by their spirited effort.
Matt Schaub, you just knew it was coming. Those interceptions that reared their ugly little heads often during OTA’s and training camp did so again last night. Don’t let the win intoxicate you. There are more coming…The Ravens were 2 of 11 on 3rd down against the 25th ranked third-down defense…In a game during which the officials let the players play, the Ravens still managed to get flagged 7 times for 50 yards compared to the home team’s 2 for 15 yards…Za’Darius Smith has been a disappointment this season. Championed as a clone of Pernell McPhee, he’s been more like a ghost and hardly noticeable…Courtney Upshaw’s one trick pony-ness was on full display, struggling to create pressure and looking lost in space (pun intended)…Daryl Smith had the hip fluidity of a cigar store Indian in coverage.
With 2:51 remaining and the Ravens holding a 27-20 lead, the great Austin Davis, subbing for the injured Josh McCown, faced a 3rd and 19 from the Browns 20 yard line. Four consecutive completions later the game was tied at 27…On the 42-yard scoring strike to Travis Benjamin, Will Hill was sucked in by a Brian Hartline crossing route leaving Wright without the expected safety support on the deep post…Generally speaking Dean Pees’ defensive middle against the pass was like inviting soft butter to the hot knife of Browns’ QBs. They gutted the Ravens just as they did at M&T in October. Without their No. 2 and No. 3 WRs it is unconscionable that Pees couldn’t dial up a better plan to contain Gary Barnidge (7 for 91 yards).
THE MEGAN FOX
Coming into the game, with limited weapons on the outside, starting RB Justin Forsett on the shelf and a new signal caller stepping in for Joe Flacco (the first time John Harbaugh has ever started a game without No. 5), everyone knew that the Ravens would try to get the running game cranked up. And that gave the Browns rushing defense an edge, even if they are the NFL’s worst.
Enter Buck Allen.
The rookie ran with purpose and successfully added key yards after contact to help shorten 2nd and 3rd down distances, which in turn opened the Ravens playbook and took pressure off Schaub. With 55 yards on 12 carries, 29 yards on 4 catches and a touchdown, not to mention some professional blitz pick ups, the former Trojan gets the nod for this week’s Megan Fox.