CLEVELAND — On Sunday afternoon the Baltimore Ravens traveled to Cleveland for their second matchup against the winless Browns this season. John Harbaugh and the Ravens put together a 27-10 win and walked out of Cleveland with a fresh morale.
Coming off of an overtime loss to the Packers, the Browns were looking more than overdue for their first win of the year. Quarterback DeShone Kizer played one of his best games of the year and star receiver Josh Gordon made his long-awaited return. With all of this in mind, this week’s matchup had all the makings of a trap game for the Ravens.
For all of you superstitious fans, Saturday was also the ten-year anniversary of the Ravens infamous loss to the Miami Dolphins. That would end up being the only win for Miami during their abysmal 2007 campaign but it saved them from what looked like an inevitable 0-16 season. Ten years later, the Browns found themselves winless with the same exact record (0-13) as the Dolphins. This time around the Ravens would handle their business, simultaneously saving themselves from embarrassment.
Baltimore’s offense didn’t pounce on the Browns in the early minutes of Sunday’s game but the defense certainly came looking to make a statement. The Terrell Suggs-led unit held Kizer and the Browns’ offense down early and never backed off. Up until the final drive of the first half, Kizer’s total passing yards were in the negatives. He finished the game with 146 passing yards on 20 completions.
The Ravens continued to look a little sloppy through most of the first half but finished strong with a pair of touchdowns to take a 17-10 lead. Given everything that went wrong for Cleveland in the first half, including a pair of turnovers, they only found themselves down by one possession at the break. The Ravens’ defense continued to do their job in the second half and kept the Browns off of the scoreboard for the reminder of the game.
Alex Collins had an uncharacteristically quiet game on the ground, possibly due to the stout run defense of Cleveland. After getting roughed up on a couple of plays throughout the game, the coaching staff decided to sit their starting running back instead of risking an injury. Javorius Allen picked up the work load in his absence and racked up 70 yards while running out the clock in the fourth quarter.
With Collins not running as well as he normally does, Joe Flacco ended up throwing over 40 passes in Sunday’s win. Despite only completing 26 of those passes, Flacco finished with 288 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The offensive line didn’t open many holes in the run game until garbage time, but they did keep Flacco on his feet. The Browns only sacked #5 once.
One of the unsung heroes of the day was punter Sam Koch. The 12-year veteran dropped three punts inside the Cleveland 5-yard line throughout the game. The first two made it difficult for Kizer and the Browns’ offense to get anything going but the third was the key to the game.
On the first play following Koch’s sensational punt, Kizer dropped back into his own endzone. Za’Darius Smith was all over the rookie QB before he could get a read on his receivers. Smith swiftly forced a fumble which Brandon Williams recovered for a touchdown. The score was reviewed, but it was upheld and the Ravens took complete control of the game with a 24-10 lead.
Williams’ touchdown marks the first of his career and the fifth of the year for the Ravens defense. This was just one of four turnovers forced by Baltimore on the day, giving them a differential of +17 for the year.
Following the heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh, the Ravens still had the chance to control their own destiny by winning out and this week was the first step toward a playoff berth. There are still two winnable games left. If the Ravens continue to take care of their own business, we will be seeing purple in the postseason.
The first of those final two games will be this coming Saturday when the Indianapolis Colts come to town for the first time since the 2012-13 playoffs.
Image Credit: Ron Schwane, Associated Press