This was a game that many were calling crucial to the Ravens season.
There were so many questions coming out of the blowout loss to Houston two weeks ago that many people felt that this next road trip to Cleveland would make or break Baltimore’s playoff hopes.
Many of those same questions may have remained unanswered but the Ravens did enough to get the job done and leave Cleveland with a victory pushing their record to 6-2 as they maintain first place in the AFC North.
There’s always plenty to talk about win or lose so let me dive into this afternoon’s victory:
- The Ravens needed a win today and they got one. Sounds simple. Of course the manner in which they won is what concerns people, myself included. After watching this team for eight games I think we have a large enough sample size to determine just who these 2012 Ravens actually are. They are a flawed team. The offense struggles for stretches on the road. The defense is below average with issues all across the unit. They lack a pass rush. The linebackers can’t cover. The cornerbacks struggle. The defensive line can’t get off blocks. You’ve heard this all before and it won’t be the last time before the season is out. So why is this team 6-2 and in first place? Because the NFL is full of mediocre teams and for all of their flaws Baltimore still knows how to win, while other franchises continue to struggle in the latter category. Case in point – the Cleveland Browns. A crucial penalty killed a touchdown drive, two turnovers, and inept coaching all kept the Browns from winning today. I’ve read that some were worried that if the Ravens played a better team they would have been picked apart. Maybe so but name me another team besides Houston in the AFC that you can place in that category?
- The offense came roaring out of the gate in the First Quarter and dominated Cleveland. Two long drives of 70 and 66 yards respectively ended in touchdowns on the ground. Ray Rice got his first away touchdown of the season and Bernard Pierce had a nifty score around the end. Joe Flacco completed his first ten passes of the game and looked sharp picking up key first downs. And then – it just stopped. The Ravens punted on their next seven consecutive drives. Six of which were three and outs. They gained a total of 32 yards in those possessions. The big question is why? I’ll point to a lack of adjustments to the game plan, Cleveland’s defensive adjustments and poor execution by the offense. I will give the group credit, which includes Cameron, for waking from their offensive coma to score the go ahead touchdown on a 19-yd completion to Torrey Smith.
- Ray Rice – 25 carries, 98 yards, 1 touchdown. That’s a fine day of work for one of the league’s best. We heard for the last two weeks that Rice needed to be more involved and he was. But I still can’t help but wonder after today why we seemingly have to beg for your best offensive player to touch the ball more. Bernard Pierce was active as well scoring his first TD as a pro on 7 rushes for 26 yards. Yeah, it’s a passing league but for the Ravens offense to be productive they still need to run it.
- If I’m a Browns fan I’m calling for Pat Shurmur’s resignation immediately. Why he chose to go for it with four minutes left deep in his own territory was perplexing. It allowed the Ravens to calmly run more clock and boot a Field Goal for insurance to seal the game. Some teams just have no idea how to close out games.
- Joe Flacco’s uneven performances away from M & T continue. He started hot, and then went into one of his infamous funks for a long stretch. I’ll give him his due for leading a touchdown drive when his team needed it most but Flacco continues to infuriate me with his Katy Perry routine (Hot, then Cold – get it?). Anyway he returns to Baltimore next week and he’ll probably throw for 380 and 3 scores and look all-world.
- Anquan Boldin owns the Browns. He caught all five passes thrown his way – 5 for 57 yds. and grabbed a nicely designed 2 Pt. conversion pass.
- The defense bent but didn’t break. The fact they kept the Browns out of the endzone and forced them to settle for Field Goals was the difference in this one. Still this group is tough to watch sometimes. Broken tackles, poor coverage, and a terrible pass rush. I don’t think it’s a good sign when your secondary tops your list of most tackles for the game.
- Ed Reed. He could have had three interceptions but had to settle for one today to give him 60 for his career. He seemed more active as a tackler today even though he’s fighting numerous injuries finishing with 5 stops and 2 passes defensed.
- Trent Richardson is a load. He ran for 105 on 25 rushes as the Baltimore defense allowed yet another 100 yd. runner. Remember when Baltimore used to have a streak of never allowing such gaudy stats? Yeah, I’ve forgotten to.
- The CBS presentation of football is awful. At least I got to hear the voice of old favorite Marv Albert during the broadcast though I could have done without Marv’s quickie quiz. The Shirelles? You’re old Marv. I also don’t care for Rich Gannon who added zero to the telecast except a bitter perspective.