Ravens Defense Shines As They Take Down Browns
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By Samuel Njoku
After the Ravens took a beating at the hands of the Broncos, the defending champions were eager to get back on the field to right their wrongs. They felt disrespected, ashamed, and angry after their season opener. And the defense took out their frustrations on the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens were relentless in their pursuit of Brandon Weeden and walked away with a 14-6 victory to improve to (1-1). But even with the win, there is still plenty of work left to be done.
Offense Grade: C-
The Ravens picked up where they left off with a pedestrian offensive attack to say the least. The first passing play of the game was a strike to Ed Dickson which was immediately dropped. It was clear what type of game this was going to be from then on.
The Ravens didn’t get much help from their TE group as they combined for only two catches and 26 yards. Eighteen of those yards came from third string tight end Billy Bajema. Joe Flacco is losing confidence in his tight ends and it’s showing up on the football field.
On the bright side, the receiving corps seems to be getting it together. Torrey Smith played well against Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden. He was targeted a career high 13 times and finished with 85 yards on seven catches. Rookie WR Marlon Brown caught his second consecutive touchdown pass of the season on a slant route that looked similar to the play that Dennis Pitta is accustomed to making. He’ll be an important factor for this team moving forward.
The running game for Baltimore has looked less than stellar the past two weeks. Albeit they’ve gone against two very stout defensive fronts in Denver and Cleveland, the running game has to improve if this team hopes to reach their potential on offense. Ray Rice left the game late with a hip injury. Prior to the injury however, Rice was less than spectacular as he finished with 36 yards on 13 carries. As is often the case, Bernard Pierce does a better job of moving the football when given the opportunity. But even he finished the day with a mediocre 57 yards on 19 carries. These numbers simply won’t do against the elite teams in the AFC.
Defense Grade: A-
The Ravens defense didn’t care for Brandon Weeden on Sunday. It was made painfully obvious by the number of hits the Browns QB took from Baltimore’s defenders. Cleveland’s offensive line could not keep the Ravens front seven at bay. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil were superb from the edge and even Daryl Smith got in the action with 1.5 sacks of his own. Simply put, the Ravens defense dominated this game. Besides the two field goals made by former Raven Billy Cundiff, the Browns barely threatened to score the entire game.
The Ravens made a significant change in their secondary when they started rookie safety Matt Elam over Michael Huff. Jimmy Smith also saw an extended amount of action on Sunday. The Ravens were trying to get a feel of who can get the job done after being embarrassed against Peyton Manning. If this game was any indication, the Ravens may be set with Elam and Smith. Both played well in coverage.
Quarterback Grade: B+
Joe Flacco had a decent game against Cleveland. He gets an extra nudge on the grade scale for playing minutes after his wife gave birth to their second child. On the field, Flacco is still trying to gain a feel for his receivers. He’s clearly comfortable with Torrey Smith as he targeted him and aforementioned 13 times. But Brandon Stokley and Marlon Brown are still a few games away from truly getting into a rhythm with the star quarterback. Flacco all but ignored his tight ends when it appeared they were still dealing with holding on to the ball. But this offense is most potent when he gets everyone involved. Hopefully for Baltimore, the tight ends regain his trust or they will lose a pivotal dimension of their offense.
Special Teams Grade: D-
Billy Cundiff made both of his field goals today while Justin Tucker was a less than stellar 1 for 3 on the day. That’s simply unacceptable. When former Ravens K Matt Stover was asked about why Tucker could have been struggling, he responded by saying that the adrenaline rush accompanied by the home opener may have played a role in his misses. Regardless, the misses nearly cost Baltimore dearly. On a brighter note, it appears WR Tandon Doss may have found his niche as a punt returner. He handled the role quite well.
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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. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.