By Samuel Njoku
The Cleveland Browns went into Baltimore to battle the Ravens with a mindset to play physical football. That’s exactly what fans got Thursday night as the two AFC North rivals went head to head. But in the end, it was Joe Flacco who once again carried his team to victory with a 23-16 win that moved the Ravens to (3-1) this season.
For the second straight game, Flacco seemed to struggle in the first quarter. But afterwards, the fifth-year quarterback continued to dominate defenses with his huge plays downfield. Flacco’s glaring mistake came in the redzone, where he would throw a pick in the corner of the endzone.
“The guy that picked me off was standing on the line of scrimmage and he just took off that way,” said Flacco on Thursday. “I threw the ball and I thought I had a touchdown all the way up until the fact. I was probably a step from the sidelines still thinking, ‘Man, how did I not have a touchdown there?’”
Fans shouldn’t be too concerned about that interception. Though it appears to be a bad throw by Flacco. the fact that he is making those kinds of throws shows you how confident he is in making plays for his team. That’s something that will definitely help Baltimore down the road.
Cam Cameron called a good game today. Flacco threw the ball over 40 times, but that’s because they weren’t getting great numbers on the ground. Rice struggled to get anything going with only 47 yards on 18 attempts, but as many have preached all along, the attempts are more important than the yards themselves. Giving Rice the ball, even when he may be struggling, keeps the defense honest. To be fair to Rice, the Browns kept seven to eight men in the box most of the game. It’s a big reason why Flacco had the game that he did.
The same can be said for the receiving corps who dominated the Browns corners on Thursday. Boldin would finish the day with 9 catches for 131 yards. Torrey Smith would continue to impress with six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. The offensive line predictably struggled against a larger defensive front, but they held their own enough to give the skill players a chance to win the game.
The secondary continued to struggle in this game. This time it was to a rookie quarterback. Brandon Weeden threw for over 300 yards in this game. That had less to do with the secondary, and more to do with the Ravens inability to get after the quarterback. Dean Pees would often send 5-6 men after Weeden, leaving the secondary vulnerable. The opposing offensive line did a great job in picking up the blitzes most of the night and it often times left receivers open down the field.
The defense did a great job containing Trent Richardson, but Richardson did show the Ravens that he will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. The Browns couldn’t really get anything going on the ground with Richardson, so they dumped the ball off to him on open space to give the rookie RB a chance to make plays.
The special teams unit has been an area of strength for this team for most of the year. But on Thursday, the unit struggled a bit. Tucker would miss his first kick of the season when a 47 yard attempt went wide right. Koch and the punting unit gave up a couple of big plays and Deonte Thompson struggled on return duties. But this had more to do with the nasty weather on Thursday than anything else. Fans shouldn’t worry about Tucker or the rest of this unit. They’re still one of the best in the NFL.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.