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Ravens Defense Rules The Night

Tyus Bowser sacks Baker Mayfield
Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens
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The Ravens maintained their lead in the AFC North and became the top seed in the conference following their 16-10 win over Cleveland Sunday night. They also saw their All-World kick-er drill three big kicks, their run defense clog up the best run game in the league while their young linebacker corps continues to impress.

That’s most of the good stuff.

There will be a range of grades here, which should pare well with the range of football competence witnessed on the field tonight. I would like to put out there that there are going to be some bleak marks for the offense with this one, but I do give quite a bit of credit to the Browns defense. I thought most of their defensive playmakers were clutch in a big game.

Offense: D

Putting up 303 yards at home and only producing one touchdown, while turning over the ball four times, is not a good performance. Why not an “F,” you might ask? They did control the ball for 37:04, which is remarkable when you consider they gave away four possessions with turnovers. Plus, the opening drive of the second half for a touchdown was a big moment in the game.

Quarterback: D-

Four interceptions and only producing about five yards per throw is not getting it done. I thought the Browns made very impressive plays on two of them, particularly the one downfield in the second half. But he also missed some very easy throws that he usually hits, and really struggled to get loose with his legs. Jackson, however, just like the offense, did some things of note that avoided the dreaded “F.” He constantly avoided a buzzsaw of a pass rush by the Browns, notably on his touchdown pass to Andrews, and picked up two first downs on their final drive with his legs, and another on a nice toss to Marquise Brown. Just a dreadful overall game, but Lamar overcame it with his highlights, and a swarming defense.

Running Backs: C

The Ravens running back stable is average, but not in a typically average way. Devonta Free-man and Latavius Murray are both smart, hard-running guys who maximize their physical traits. They just don’t have particularly explosive traits at this stage of their careers. Freeman made some tough runs in the fourth quarter. Pat Ricard was part of the group trying to control the Browns’ front, so he wasn’t showing off his receiving prowess much. That was a joke, folks — even though I do like watching him catch and run.

Receivers: C-

Mark Andrews really had a nice game, produced a highlight-reel touchdown catch and made one of the best catches you’ll ever see while being physically assaulted on the play. Brown did some decent things on short passes, including a big first down in the fourth quarter, but he never flipped the field with his speed. Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins made minimal contributions. Devin Duvernay picked up a big first down on a jet sweep.

Offensive Line: D-

This unit was overwhelmed by the Browns’ front from whistle to whistle, especially Myles Gar-rett and Jadeveon Clowney. They got very little movement in the run game. But they looked to be wearing down the Browns defense in the fourth quarter, and they did help the Ravens own time of possession. Alejandro Villanueva had a forgettable night, and a late holding call stopped the clock and negated a nice run by Freeman. Kevin Zeitler did make a nice second-level block to free Freeman on a third-and-short in the second quarter, but had a false start on fourth and goal that forced the Ravens to kick the field goal.

Mark Andrews TD v. Browns
Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens

Defense: A

The Browns have been struggling offensively lately, but not in the run game. And they brought back Kareem Hunt tonight to help their cause, while the Ravens were without their top run-stopper in Calais Campbell. It was enough to make even the most optimistic of Ravens fan to be apprehensive about the matchup. But the numbers don’t lie: The Browns had 40 yards of rushing, and star back Nick Chubb was held to 16 yards on eight carries. Also, that Ravens linebacking group appeared to wake up feeling dangerous. Again.

Defensive Line: A-

The line was a big factor in this game, consistently preventing the Browns’ much-praised of-fensive line from getting any push. Justin Ellis and Broderick Washington both made plays ear-ly, and Justin Madubuike found some penetration in the run game, and batted down a sec-ond-quarter pass. Brandon Williams had a nice stuff of Chubb in the third quarter.

Linebackers: A+

Patrick Queen had a team-high eight tackles, two run-stuffs, blew up an early screen pass and was effective both before and after leaving the game with an injury. Odafe Oweh had a sack, forced a fumble, scared Baker Mayfield into another fumble and looks like he is the answer to the prayers of many Flockers. Tyus Bowser might have been the best player on the field for the second straight week. He had four tackles that I counted, flushed Mayfield out of the pocket for two incompletions, had another hit on Baker Mayfield that drew a flag, broke up a pass to Chubb for a potential first down and had a huge fourth-quarter sack. Justin Houston was constantly in the backfield and also had a big stop on Chubb. Josh Bynes appeared to get smoked by Jarvis Landry for a big reception, but he also picked up a few tackles.

Defensive Backs: B-

There were some holes in their zone defenses that were entirely too big, by execution or scheme. Both Chuck Clark and Marlon Humphrey dropped interceptions in the fourth quarter that could have ended the game. Brandon Stephens had a nice game, with five tackles and a breakup of a third-down pass before halftime. Teams are definitely not afraid to go after Humphrey this season, and he had another pass interference penalty.

Special Teams: A-

Justin Tucker was terrific, nailing two long field goals in his perfect 3-3 night. Sam Koch missed some opportunities to pin Cleveland back, but hit a big punt in the fourth that resulted in a nice tackle downfield by Eric Tomlinson. Duvernay had a nice second-quarter punt return, but made a questionable decision to field one late that could have easily resulted in a fumble. An-thony Levine seemingly picked up a first down on a weird fake-punt-substitute-quickly play, but it was negated.

Coaching: B+

They overcame four turnovers, a squandered 17-play drive, two dropped interceptions, a seemingly-rusty quarterback and a Browns’ defensive front that was simply too good for their offensive line to handle. This staff has done a nice job overall, particularly when considering its injuries. Still, some of the wide-open holes in the pass defense, and some of the predictable first-down calls on offense can cause global heartburn. Overall, they have this beat-up team in first place, and tonight was a big win.

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