The Baltimore Ravens, in the midst of having played four games in 18 days, finished a tough opening stretch against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football.
The game came right down to the wire as the Browns gave the Ravens everything they had. In the end the home team comes out on top, defeating Cleveland 23-16 in front of 70,944 at a rainy M&T Bank Stadium.
Wasn’t Flacco’s greatest night ever, but he made the throws he needed to in this game. Flacco went 28-for-46 for 356 yards. Flacco even had a rushing touchdown. When he had time to throw with a nice pocket he made great throws, one to Tandon Doss, a throw to the correct shoulder for 39-yards and then an absolute laser to Torrey Smith for his passing TD.
He also made a poor choice throwing into double coverage and getting picked off in the end zone by Craig Robertson. Credit Robertson for the tremendous play, but it was not a good decision by Flacco. He locked in on Boldin and under threw him where a throw towards the back corner of the end zone may have been paydirt. It was a sloppy night overall, luckily Flacco wasn’t picked off more if the Browns defenders could actually catch.
Running Backs: C
Not a lot of yardage from Rice, but he ran hard in the holes that were created. Rice ran for 48 yards but chipped in with eight catches for 47 yards. My favorite moment of the night was Rice stiff-arming Craig Robertson to the ground for a long run in the 1st quarter. Would have liked to seen Rice run the football more in the 2nd half.
We finally got to see Bernard Pierce in action and he looked good. A nice change-of-pace that busted a couple long runs in the 2nd half. He had 48 rushing yards on six carries. That’s an eight yard clip per carry.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A
This group overall helped Flacco out tonight. Torrey Smith was a factor down field for the Ravens, they tried early and often to find ways to get the ball in his hands. Smith finished with 97 yards and a score. Anquan Boldin was huge tonight finishing with nine catches for 131 yards. He was a workhorse in the middle of the field, showing why he’s an excellent possession receiver.
Offensive Line: D-
Though the numbers weren’t there, overall, the unit did an OK job in run blocking. Way too many penalties for this group after they played so well last week. Not a good night for Michael Oher who was flagged numerous times for penalties and lost his cool too. The line had trouble keeping Flacco upright as he was sacked four times. Kelechi Osemele had trouble with the speed rush on the outside for the Browns. A step backwards for this group.
Defensive Line: C+
Haloti Ngata was a force to be reckon with inside. The Browns tried to punch it in there with the running game, wasn’t happening. Ma’ake Kemoeatu was solid in the trenches too. Wasn’t much else happening from this group tonight though.
Paul Kruger was all over the field in this one. He recorded a sack in a 5-on-3 situation which is pretty damn impressive. He defended well in pass coverage too, perhaps his best game as a pro. Dannell Ellerbe was good early on in run coverage, but overall the Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson ran well left to right on the linebackers.
A good sign to see was the linebackers got pressure on quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Cary Williams has been the weak spot in the secondary this season and it continued tonight. He did have a great read on his first career interception and pick six that changed the game and gave the Ravens the momentum. Lardarius Webb had a good night, with good support in both the run and pass. He’s playing at a high level right now.
Special Teams: C+
Justin Tucker converted a 45-yard field goal but missed on a 47 yarder. There was also a muffed snap on the extra point. Usually not hearing a long snapper’s name is a good thing, but tonight you heard the name Morgan Cox. I’m sure he’ll hear it a little bit tomorrow in film.
Sam Koch displayed his coffin-corner punt skills, burying two punts inside the five yard line.
Perhaps an emotional hangover after playing New England last Sunday night and the Eagles the week before? The offense didn’t really get into a good rhythm until the 2nd quarter. Defensively, the Ravens gave up 300 yards to a struggling Cleveland offense. Truly a bend-but-don’t-break effort. The Ravens are just lucky to get through the quarter pole of the season with a W, no matter what.
The Ravens in the end were too much for the young and inexperienced Browns team, but they gave them a scare. With some better play makers, things may have turned out differently.
This was a game that the Ravens could have put away very quickly as they left a lot of points out on the field. But in the end, a win is a win. Up two games in the AFC North at 3-1, they’ll now have some extra time to rest up as they’ll go on the road to face the Kansas City Chiefs on October 7th.
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