I know many expected a two-score game (I had 23-10 in our Bold Predictions) but I don’t think many saw this 28-7 rout coming!
With Joe Flacco‘s three touchdown passes in the 2nd half, a great defensive effort, and special teams actually looking special (in a good way), I think it’s fair to say this week will be the best Report Card the Ravens have seen, hands down!
First and foremost, let’s touch on the important grades.
Ravens Color Rush Uniforms: A+ I love them, I really do. I’m not a uniform traditionalist, so this is right up my alley. Clean, the colors pop, and best of all? The ugly gold pants are nowhere to be seen!
Joe Flacco’s Mannequin Challenge Fist Pump: B- Controlled breathing would’ve helped, but adrenaline man…
It was nice seeing Ryan Mallet enter the game, and it wasn’t because of a knee brace malfunction this time!
If this grade was first half alone it would’ve been abysmal. But Flacco turned things on in the second half to the tune of three touchdown passes, a 75% completion percentage, and really spread the ball well, hitting nine different receivers on the day.
The biggest knock on Joe was the same as it’s always been: terrible decision making leading to mind-numbing interceptions. Two major head scratching picks by Flacco again this week, both of which were in the end zone and cost the team points. Had Joe made better decisions, this game would’ve been a 34-7 (+2 FG’s) or possibly 42-7 (+2 TD’s) drubbing.
Offensive Line: B-
GUYS!! RONNIE STANLEY DIDN’T HAVE A PENALTY!!
Actually, the O-Line only had two penalties in this game, both of which came at the hands of Vladimir Ducasse, who was filling in for the injured Marshal Yanda. Being of backup caliber, I’m gonna let it slide, Vlad.
Otherwise, the OL helped the run game succeed to the tune of 119 yards on the ground, the pocket held up well in the pass game with Flacco having plenty of time to throw and only taking two sacks on the night (one of which was more coverage than pressure). I was impressed, but what made it better? Even after LG Alex Lewis went down with an ankle injury, the line held together just as strong as before. Yes, it’s the Browns, but that confidence builder will be huge heading into the Dallas game next week.
Wide Receivers: B+
Kudos to Breshad Perriman on his 1st career NFL touchdown! Perriman (3 receptions, 64 yards, 1 TD) is continuing to show that his role is growing within the offense, and that he really can be the deep threat opposite Mike Wallace. Steve Smith Sr (5 receptions, 60 yards, 1 TD) also gets major props for leapfrogging Reggie Wayne, as he moved into 8th all time in receiving yards. Wallace had another solid game (4/59) while Kamar Aiken added a few snags to get on the stat sheet. Consistency in this group is integral to the team’s success and they made it happen yet again.
Tight Ends: B-
I’ve long awaited Darren Waller’s coming out party on the field, and while his stat line isn’t exactly TE1 fantasy football type stuff, it was great to see him finally find the end zone.
Dennis Pitta just did more Pitta stuff, I guess. Six receptions on six targets is good, but 26 total yards? Ho-hum. I miss the production he brought this team earlier in the season when he was ripping off first downs right and left. I guess the good part about this offense right now is that they don’t need that production from him…
Running Backs: B-
Anybody else noticing Kenneth Dixon slowly but surely stealing touches from Terrance West? While West out-carried Dixon easily in this game (21-6), Dixon actually boasts a better ypc (6.3) than West (3.1) and Dixon is seeing more action in the passing game, racking up five catchers for 42 yards against Cleveland.
What does that mean for the offense?
I don’t know. But if I had to guess, I’d say expect this to be the status quo moving forward with a two-man wrecking crew in the backfield, and less of a lead-back workhorse situation.
Defensive Line: B+
They just get it done every single week, don’t they?
The Browns mustered just 13 carries in this game for 33 yards. That’s it. Meanwhile the unit spent a good bit of their day manhandling the Browns O-Line, with Michael Pierce blowing up a play in the backfield, Timmy Jernigan recording another sack, and the QB combo of Cody Kessler & Josh McCown left feeling uncomfortable all game long.
Look! An A grade!
Terrell Suggs man… what can you really say? A strip sack, knocking the arm of the QB leading to an interception by Jerraud Powers, and when you can own a Pro Bowl caliber Offensive Lineman like Suggs did with Joe Thomas? And do it with ONE ARM? You deserve that A.
Contributions from others in the group went a bit unnoticed as they paled in comparison to Suggs in this game, but we shall give them their props! Matt Judon had a fumble recovery, Za’Darius Smith busted up the gut nearly untouched for a sack, and Albert McClellan had a nice tackle for loss. C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr kept the middle of the field clean for most of the day as well.
Man, I’m really not used to having this much positive to go with such little negatives when discussing the Ravens play…
Lardarius Webb followed up last week’s near-two-interception game with another solid outing, recording a sack along the way.
Guys… quietly, this unit is gelling very nicely. Webb has stepped up his game, Weddle is the leader in the backfield and Young is everything that Shareece Wright wasn’t. I had low expectations for this secondary coming into the season, but now? You can’t argue with results…
Special Teams: B
Nothing too exciting here, but that’s always okay with the Ravens special teams unit. Justin Tucker remained perfect with two more field goals, while Sam Koch managed to surprise me and not shank a punt like he seems to do at least once per game.
Devin Hester actually looked like a return man in the game, making a nice 28 yard return on a kickoff, while managing to hold onto the ball all game long. I did find it interesting that the Ravens sent Webb back to return a punt earlier in the game, but I’m likely writing a narrative there that simply doesn’t exist.
Can you name a single coaching decision in this game that had you salty?
John Harbaugh challenged one play in this game when the Browns tried to run a ball out of the end zone, and despite the officials deeming the ruling on the field correct, I think John was 100% right here. But these things happen, and you can’t expect a coach to know exactly what the official will do in those instances.
Dean Pees has called back to back great defensive game plans, Jerry Rossburg has his special teams units firing on all cylinders, and Marty Mornihnweg made some great halftime adjustments that led to three touchdown drives for the Ravens.
Team Grade: B+
Yes. I know it was ‘just the Browns,’ but the Ravens came away with more than a win in this game. They won the game by 3 scores (which could have been more had it not been for 2 red zone picks), their offense got the confidence boost they needed, the defense didn’t surrender much of anything on the night to help build that unit up, and overall the Ravens managed to play a solid game all around. That confidence booster is much needed as they look ahead to the daunting Dallas Cowboys in 10 days.