By Samuel Njoku
Coming off a bye, many wondered how the Baltimore Ravens (6-2) would respond after the trouncing they received from the Houston Texans. Harbaugh called this a must-win game against a Cleveland Browns (2-7) team that had won two of their last three games. The Ravens got the job done with a 25-15 win over the Browns.
The coordinators for Baltimore received a lot of heat over the past few weeks as both units have struggled. Prior to Sunday’s game, Cam Cameron did a poor job of getting Ray Rice a consistent amount of carries. Against the Browns, Cameron got the ball to his running backs early and often. It played a huge role in giving Baltimore an early 14-0 lead as both Rice and Pierce scored touchdowns. After the first quarter however, the offense would be a non factor for a majority of the game. Most of the blame is on the players’ failure to execute. But it was also clear that Cameron was outcoached by the Browns defensive coordinator in the second half. Cam couldn’t find an answer for the Browns half time adjustments and it nearly cost them.
Dean Pees hasn’t received nearly as much criticism as Cam Cameron, but deserves equal blame for the Ravens performance as of late. With the loss of Lewis and Webb, his job hasn’t gotten any easier. On Sunday however, Pees did a good job of play-calling against a Browns team that can run the ball as well as anyone. Baltimore should be pleased with the way they performed, even if they aren’t where they were this time last year.
It looked as though nobody could stop Baltimore in the early goings of this game. The Ravens played as if they were at M&T Bank Stadium. They played sound football for a full quarter. Ray Rice had great burst off the line. The offensive line opened up decent holes for the running backs. And this gave Flacco great opportunities to expose the Browns defense with precise play-action passes. But afterwards, the offense sputtered mightily. The Ravens had 5 straight “three and outs” that nearly cost them the game. Had the Ravens defense not been able to hold the Browns in the red-zone, the outcome of this game may have been different.
The offensive line just isn’t very good when it comes to pass protection. And though they’re technique is sound during running plays, an aggressive defensive front can cause them problems as well. The Ravens offense played better on the road and will have to build on their success in the coming weeks. They still have a lot of work to do.
The defense played decent football on Sunday. The redzone defense was exceptional as they held the Browns to 5 field goals. And the Ravens would need that as 2 touchdowns on any of those redzone trips would have probably won them the game. The Ravens defense gave up another 100 yards to a running back as Trent Richardson finished with 105. But with Ngata playing through an injury and Suggs getting back in the swing of things, that is an accomplishment for Baltimore. The secondary held Weeden to under 200 yards. The Ravens haven’t been able to accomplish that much this season. And though the Browns aren’t a playoff team, any win against a divisional opponent is meaningful.
One thing the Ravens must work on is the cornerback play of both Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith. Williams continues to struggle covering receivers. He wasn’t horrible on Sunday, but needs to be more consistent in his play. It is evident as to why the Ravens like Williams, but he has yet to put it all together.
Justin Tucker didn’t have the same kind of game as Phil Dawson, but he got the job done when his number was called. The punting team did a great job of controlling the field position battle. For all the talk about how much Dean Pees and Cam Cameron have struggled, Jerry Rosburg’s name hasn’t come up nearly as much. And it’s a shame. He’s done a great job this season with putting together one of the best special teams units 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.