Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns: Game Report Card
Baltimore Ravens Post-Game Report Card
The Baltimore Ravens dropped their first divisional rematch, 24-18 to the Cleveland Browns to fall to 1-4 on the road for the season. With this the start of a pivotal five-game stretch, one has to question if the team can rebound and reach the playoffs, as the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals loom next.
Hundred-million dollar man Joe Flacco was outplayed by third-stringer Jason Campbell, and that pretty much sealed the deal for Baltimore. The offensive line could not open up holes for Ray Rice, nor could it protect its quarterback. The defense put up another strong effort, but again could not get off the field when they needed it most, as unheralded Greg Little made clutch play after clutch play.
In a close game that the Ravens were losing, the team made a ghastly error at the worst time, as Tandon Doss fumbled a punt to set the Browns up for a touchdown and an 11-point lead. Baltimore got within three after a late touchdown and two-point conversion, but old friend Billy Cundiff was there to send the Ravens packing as he hit a chip shot field goal with 21 seconds left to play.
Though the loss stings, some key Ravens players left their marks on the game. Who stepped up, and who is left to blame for the Ravens' third consecutive loss?
Alexander Diegel is a columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @ItsaDiegel, "like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on google
Joe Flacco did not have his worst game. He didn't have his best either. He missed some open receivers early that would have helped the favorites set a tone, was picked off and just had a mediocre day overall. Granted, his offensive line and running game did him not help and he doubled as the team's leading rusher. Still, when you sign a $100 million contract, you should be able to manage a win against the Cleveland Browns.
Granted, the line is under-talented and over-matched, but that cannot completely excuse the underperformance of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. They were held to the embarrassing sum of just 26 yards combined, just one more than the slow-footed Flacco.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Marlon Brown and Torrey Smith were the only two pass catchers that made an impact on this game. The duo accounted for 10 catches and 132 yards, while the rookie Brown hauled in both of Flacco's touchdown passes. The Ravens have to hope Dennis Pitta can make it back this season and provide a boost, as Flacco is really missing a dependable option underneath.
It is painfully evident that zone-blocking scheme is not working for the running game, but this offensive line cannot protect the quarterback either. Five sacks and 55 yards running, 25 of which were by Flacco as he was running for his life. Not much more needs to be said here.
They did not get much pressure on Campbell, but did a hell of a job in the ground game. Though Willis McGahee's days in the NFL may be near an end, the defensive line still gets credit for clogging holes and holding the Browns to just 73 yards rushing on the day.
Terrell Suggs did his best to rally the troops with a sack on the game's opening play, and surprising veteran Daryl Smith had yet another stellar game in the middle of the defense. The unit also helped limit stud tight end Jordan Cameron to just one catch for four yards. Another standout day for what has been the team's best unit on either side of the ball.
Leading up to this game, I wrote that the ability to stop Cameron and Josh Gordon would be the key for a Ravens' victory. Well, the secondary did that, but did not account for third man Greg Little, who went off for seven catches and 122 yards, and was there time and again when the team needed him most. The secondary also let the journeyman Campbell complete two thirds of his passes, with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Not a good look for the back end of this proud defensive unit.
Tandon Doss, who was the league's second-best punt returner entering the game, could not not have picked a worse time muff a punt. The Browns needed only two plays to extend their third quarter lead to 21-10 and, though we clearly have the benefit of hindsight, it is not a stretch to say Doss' error cost his team the game. Kicker Justin Tucker did nail a 51-yard field goal to highlight the day for this unit.
Another questionable decisions for John Harbaugh, who chose to defer the opening kick. It did not hurt the team, but when you are on a losing streak, it may seem prudent to give yourself a chance to jump out to an early lead against the underdog Browns. The team also had a costly 12 men on the field call after Doss' fumbled punt, and Jim Caldwell's early abandonment of the run should be brought into question, even though the early attempts were admittedly unproductive.