Entering this game the major story had nothing to do with either the Baltimore Ravens or the Cleveland Browns; every sports fan around the world was talking about the return of the regular referees and when Gene Steratore and his officiating crew stepped out onto the field at M&T Stadium the Baltimore crowd gave them something they’ve never heard before, a standing ovation. The action on the field wasn’t too bad either as the Ravens pulled out a tough victory 23-16.
The Ravens racked up a total of 438 yards (337 passing and 101 rushing) on 77 plays while gaining 23 first downs, only turning over the ball once and controlling it for 33:03 of the game. While the Browns recorded 357 offensive yards (314 passing and 43 rushing) on 70 plays, gaining 20 first downs, turning the football over twice and controlling it for 26:57 of the game.
Joe Flacco continued to make his case to be recognized as one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL as he passed for 356 yards and a touchdown (also rushed for a score as well) while completing 28 of his 46 attempts and threw one interception. Flacco has shown this season that he is ready to take more of the team’s responsibilities on his shoulders and he hooked up often with two of his favorite targets Torrey Smith (6 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown) and Anquan Boldin (9 receptions for 131 yards). Ray Rice had a decent game himself carrying the 18 times for 49 yards and catching eight passes for 47 yards.
The Baltimore defense still has some kinks to work out as stopping the run seems to be rounding out but the passing defense allowed over 300 yards through the air again. The one bright spot for the Ravens pass defense was the interception that Cary Williams hauled in and returned 63 yards for a touchdown.
Cleveland’s rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden put together his best performance of the season passing for 320 yards, completing 25 of his 52 attempts and tossing that interception to Williams. Weeden even led the Browns down field in a very effective two-minute drill on the final drive of the game but fell short on the final play by over throwing everyone in the endzone in attempts to passing for a game tying score.
The Browns wide receivers didn’t help Weeden out much as they dropped by my accounts four crucial passes including one that Greg Little should have hauled in which would have also tied the game. Trent Richardson rushed for 47 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and hauled in four receptions for 57 yards showing that with a little time he could be one of the top backs in the league. Phil Dawson nailed three field goals for Cleveland in this one and all were at least 50 yards away in distance (51, 50 and 52 yards).
Up next for the Ravens (3-1) is a trip to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs while the Browns (0-4) will travel to Met Life Stadium to face the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.