The divisional matchup between the Browns and Ravens is never a given victory, despite how bad the Browns may be. Baltimore traveled to Cleveland needing a win to stay in position to determine their own playoff fate. The Browns were looking to play spoiler for the Ravens but ultimately succumbed to Baltimore. The Browns would give the Ravens a difficult time early in the game. By halftime, however, the Ravens would regain the lead, and keep it for the rest of the contest. Baltimore’s 27-10 victory over Cleveland gives the team their eighth win of the season, and a chance to make the playoffs. Here are my thoughts and observations on Baltimore’s essential victory in Cleveland.
Since defeating the Lions earlier this month, the Baltimore Ravens have been able to use their offense in an effective way. The Ravens were able to establish a potent running attack, lead b Javorius Allen. Allen filled in for Alex Collins who left the game with a minor injury. The passing attack also found ways to move the ball, as Joe Flacco had another 250+ passing yard game. The offensive line was also able to do their job, opening up holes for the running game and blocking for the quarterback.
Ravens Passing Attack
Quarterback Joe Flacco has taken a lot of heat this year for his mediocre performance for most of the season. However, with the playoffs on the horizon, it looks like January Joe is back in town. Against the Cleveland Browns, the ELITE quarterback was given the most opportunities to throw since week 9 against the Titans. On Sunday, Flacco threw the ball 42 times, completing 26 of those passes. This gave Flacco a 61.9% completion rate. Flacco’s leading receiver of the day was Mike Wallace, who has emerged as Baltimore’s true number one receiver in recent weeks. Wallace caught six of ten targets, for 89 yards. Tight end Benjamin Watson also performed well in Baltimore’s aerial assault. Watson caught all four of his targets, turning them into 74 yards and one touchdown. Other notable participants in the passing realm include running backs Alex Collins and Danny Woodhead.
Ravens Rushing Attack
On Sunday, the Ravens rushing attack benefited more from Javorius “Buck” Allen than Alex Collins. Collins is Baltimore’s leading rusher this season but was unable to find success against the Browns. Collins was handed the ball 12 times but only gained 19 yards on the ground. His longest rush of the day was six yards. Collins sustained a minor injury during the game, and the Ravens replaced him out of caution. Allen became the main back of the game and was able to realize the success that Collins could not. Allen ran the ball 13 times for 70 yards, averaging 5.4 yards each carry. Allen’s performance was able to keep the Ravens’ ground game steady. Allen was especially valuable towards the end of the game, as the Ravens were able to milk the clock out and seal a victory.
Ravens Offensive Line
Baltimore’s offensive line performed very well against Cleveland’s lackluster pass rush. The only sack of the day on Flacco came from Trevon Coley. Aside from that loss of eight yards, the Browns were only able to hit Flacco an additional 2 times. The unit was able to stand its ground, and give Flacco enough time to throw the football. Despite the line’s exquisite performance in the pass blocking department, the same cannot be said about the run blocking sector. The Ravens were unable to run against the Browns in critical situations, specifically on the goal line. The Ravens were able to get down to the Cleveland one-yard line. On third down Alex Collins gained no yards, so the Ravens opted to go for it on fourth down. Alex Collins was again handed the ball but was stuffed in the backfield for a loss of three yards, and a turnover. By the time Buck Allen relieved Collins, however, the line was able to be more efficient.
Baltimore’s defense had a rough outing against the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to facing the Cleveland Browns. In that game, the Ravens surrendered 39 points to the Steelers, and over 500 passing yards to Ben Roethlisberger. The defense had a chance to rebound against a mediocre Browns offense, and they did just that. The defense kept DeShone Kizer honest through a stout pass rush and pass defense. The defense was also able to hold running back Isiah Crowell’s impact to a minimum.
Ravens Pass Defense
Baltimore’s pass defense and secondary was able to bottle up DeShone Kizer and the Browns air attack. This was to be expected, as Kizer has played so-so all season. Kizer passed the ball 37 times while completing just 20 of his passes. Kizer’s average gain on each pass was 3.9 yards, his second-worst average of the season. Kizer also only threw for 146 yards, which is almost half of the yardage Joe Flacco put up that game. Kizer’s struggles can be attributed to many factors, but the most prevalent is Josh Gordon’s lack of domination. Josh Gordon, despite missing the past three seasons, is the best receiver on Cleveland’s roster. Gordon was targeted 11 times against the Ravens, but only caught 5 of those passes, for 47 yards. Gordon was unable to dominate against the Ravens because of the secondary was able to keep him at bay. Cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr served as an effective blanket on Gordon.
Ravens Run Defense
The Ravens run defense against the Browns proved to be solid. Aside from the one 59 yard rush by Crowell, Cleveland was unable to move the ball on the ground. Crowell only ran the ball five times, for 72 yards. Omitting the 59-yard outlier, Crowell averaged 3.25 yards per carry. Quarterback DeShone Kizer was Cleveland’s second-leading rusher of the day. Kizer ran the ball seven times for 35 yards, with an average gain of 5 yards per rush. Kizer’s longest run of the game was only for nine yards. Duke Johnson Jr. also got in on the action in the Brown’s running attack. Johnson ran the ball seven times, for 23 yards, with an average of 3.3 yards per attempt. Duke Johnson’s longest run of the day was for 12 yards and a touchdown. Overall, Baltimore’s run defense unit was solid but gave up a few big plays. The Crowell 59 yard run and the Johnson 12 yard touchdown run should never have happened.
Ravens Pass Rush
Baltimore’s pass rush against the Cleveland Browns played well. Quarterback DeShone Kizer was dropped on two sacks, one by Matthew Judon, and the other by Za’Darius Smith. Za’Darius Smith’s sack also triggered a Kizer fumble and a recovery in the end zone for a touchdown by Brandon Williams. The pass rush also pressured and hit Kizer an additional six times throughout the game. The pressure on the young quarterback was able to keep him from taking any major strides to inflict damage on the Ravens throughout the game. Baltimore’s pass rush has benefited the Ravens throughout most of the season, and it continued to do so on Sunday.
The Baltimore Ravens were expected to defeat the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens, under John Harbaugh, have only lost to the Browns twice. With the victory on Sunday, Harbaugh is now 18-2 against the Browns. The Ravens fought hard against the Browns and ultimately came out on top. The Ravens in this game receive an overall grade of A-. The offense gets a grade of A-, the passing attack an A, the running attack a B+, and the offensive line an A. The defense gets a grade of A-, the pass defense an A+, the run defense a B+, and the pass rush an A. Next week, the Ravens will host the Colts, in a Saturday Night matchup that holds a lot of playoff weight for the Ravens.