The Baltimore Ravens unfurled a 2012 Champions banner in front of 71,098 at M&T Bank Stadium and rebounded with a 14-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns yesterday afternoon to avoid starting the defense of their Super Bowl Championship, 0-2.
The game wasn’t a pretty one as the Ravens found themselves down 6-0 at the half on the strength of two Browns field goals by none other than Billy Cundiff.
Offensively, the Ravens mustered just 122 total yards through the first two quarters. For an offense that looked offensive last week in Denver, they again had some near misses early that could have blown the game open, but dropped passes and inconsistencies were the story yet again.
It was an ugly first drive for Baltimore; a pass over the middle dropped by tight end Ed Dickson, who didn’t see much of the field after that. Later on a 3rd & 7 at the 32 yard line, Flacco made a beautiful sideline throw that went right through the hands of rookie Marlon Brown. Justin Tucker then pushed a 50-yard field goal to the right. He later missed another field goal towards the end of the first half. An off day for the usually reliable kicker.
Joe Flacco, who learned just before the game that his wife Dana had given birth to their second child in New Jersey earlier that morning, was not phased by that or the Ravens early struggles. Flacco still had throws that he missed high but overall showed good poise in the pocket, going 22-of-33 for 211 yards and a touchdown.
It feels like the offense is right on the cusp of getting things ironed out. Despite the drops, Flacco has command of the offense and appears to be getting timing and rapport down with his stable of receivers. Good sign was the third down efficiency from the Ravens offense, going 8-of-16 and collecting 13 first downs via the pass.
Ray Rice, who left the game in the 4th quarter with what is described as a left hip flexor strain, found himself plodding at the line of scrimmage with not much room to run. Give the improved Browns front seven credit, whatever running lanes the Ravens opened were quickly swallowed by the Browns defensive line. Rice finished with just 36 yards on 13 carries and lost a fumble. Its been a frustrating start for the Ravens versatile back.
One thing of note was after the first play of the game, Rice and Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor got into a confrontation, jawing back and forth. Taylor after the game alluded to Rice spitting in the face of Taylor, saying, “look at the film, you will see.. I’m not going to say,” he explained to The Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It is what it is. I need to keep my composure.”
If that’s the case, disappointing to see from a genuine nice guy like Rice, but in the heat of the moment, those things sometimes happen.
Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell called plays with grinding the clock out in mind, especially after Rice left the game with injury, and doing so, iced the game for the Ravens. Bernard Pierce added 57 yards on 19 carries, most coming in the fourth quarter.
Loved seeing Torrey Smith active across the middle on crossing routes. The route was there most of the afternoon and Smith made the most of it, adding yards after the catch with his speed.
Marlon Brown continues to show his playmaking ability, albeit somewhat raw, this kid has the goods to stick at wide receiver.
The biggest thing to me is, he seems to have the confidence of Flacco and that’s a big step for the rookie moving forward. Brown caught his second career touchdown in as many games, becoming the first Raven to start his career in that fashion.
The defense looked more contained this week and under control with the reads Cleveland gave them. It may just be that they were facing the Browns, but the communication on the back end for the most part was there and the defensive line got push up front on quarterback Brandon Weeden as he felt pressure all afternoon. Weeden was sacked five times, one each from Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil and three hurries from each on the Browns QB as well.
Cleveland had nowhere to run as the Ravens did a nice job up the middle slowing Trent Richardson. Its hard to stop what the Ravens do as they employ a rotation to keep players fresh. Haloti Ngata looked good as did Marcus Spears and Pernell McPhee who found himself in the mix providing help on the inside. Chris Canty left the game early and did not return with a strained groin.
Inside linebacker Daryl Smith finished with 11 tackles and a sack, while weak-side linebacker Josh Bynes collected eight tackles. A nice showing from both linebackers who were good in pursuit but helped big time versus the run.
Former outside linebacker for the Ravens, Paul Kruger, did a good amount of jawing during the week about feeling disrespected by the Ravens organization but had a quiet afternoon finishing with three tackles. Enjoy that contract, Paul.
How about the day Jimmy Smith had? It was a game to build confidence for the former first round pick, who had a good afternoon in coverage. He did things that corners with his talent should do; locate the football and break up passes. In fact, he broke up three passes and even got a high five from John Harbaugh who ran him down to congratulate him after one play. That’s big news.
Overall in the secondary, still too many big plays being allowed by this unit. That should never happen with an inept offense like Cleveland. Weeden connected with tight end Jordan Cameron on a 53-yard gain on the Browns first play from scrimmage, and the Ravens continue to allow easy passes deep down the middle of the field.
Tandon Doss, who was resigned by the Ravens last week, tore off a nice punt return in the 2nd quarter, bouncing off teammate John Simon before gaining 23 yards. He’s received quite amount of flack for his lack of development -and rightly so – but perhaps he’s found his niche. He certainly has the speed to do so.
A win over Cleveland is a good trend forward, but the Ravens will be tested by the Houston Texans who come to town in Week 3 in the Ed Reed reunion/Ray Lewis Ring Of Honor game. A major test for the secondary as they’ll go up against receivers Andre Johnson (who left the Texans game with concussion-like symptoms) and rookie DeAndre Hopkins.