The Ravens have had more lopsided games in their history, including some bigger wins against better opponents, but this game provided breakout performances, broadly successful play from the Ravens youth, the return of some familiar faces, and renewed hope for a season that appeared lost as recently as Saturday.
The pass rush redeemed itself with a dominant effort that included contributions from many players to allow ATS on just 10 of 35 drop backs (29%).
That pass-rush success was the much-needed complement for outstanding secondary play and a suffocating run defense. The unit held the winless Browns to 144 total yards and just 48 offensive snaps.
In this cap-driven game, the fortunes of players on their first contract are the primary determinant of team success. On Thursday, there were almost too many breakouts to enumerate, but we’ll try to list those for players in their first 3 seasons:
—Kenneth Dixon played a significant role in the offense with 80 yards from scrimmage on 11 touches.
—Chris Moore converted the Ravens’ last first down with a 10-yard run.
—Timmy Jernigan recovered from a poor pass rush game versus the Steelers to pressure relentlessly.
—Michael Pierce had another fine personal effort with signature plays versus the run and pass.
—Brent Urban had a pressure, a batted pass, and a tackle for no gain in just 4 defensive snaps.
—Matt Judon applied significant pressure and recovered a fumble in 14 snaps.
—C.J. Mosley led the team with 5 tackles in a game the Ravens needed just 36 combined tackles to finish off the Browns.
—Zach Orr continued a solid season with 4 tackles.
—Patrick Onwuasor, Matt Elam, and Chris Lewis-Harris each played the final series where the Browns were unable to get the football past the line of scrimmage by any means (including an incomplete pass). For Elam, it was his first live fire on defense since 1/10/15, when he started the last Ravens playoff game at New England.
—Tavon Young continued an outstanding rookie season with another top-shelf performance. If you have hesitation to acknowledge his ascending star, you’re probably still waiting to call Florida…from the 2000 election.
Versus the Steelers, the impotence of the pass rush underscored the quality of the performance by the secondary. Versus the Browns, it returned to dominance.
Summarizing ATS by number of pass rushers:
Notes on the pass rush:
–Despite enduring a season with scarce ATS opportunities, Joe Flacco has had at least 34% ATS in every game (44% for the season). The Browns had just 29% ATS in this game. The last time Flacco had as frequent pressure was in the 2015 opener at Denver (15% ATS).
–Dean Pees called more deceptive blitzes than normal (5) with a mix of blitzes and a few stunts to go with 2-man coverage drops.
–Versus the Steelers, the Ravens averaged less than 4 rushers per pass play. Versus the Browns, that number swelled to 4.4 per rush.
–As a group the Ravens embarrassed star LT Joe Thomas who was beaten for 6 pressure events, including a sack/FF, the PD/INT, and 4 other pressures split among Jernigan, Smith, and Suggs.
–The Ravens had just 1 pressure from an inside linebacker (Mosley), but Orr played a supporting role on Webb’s sack by taking the block from RB Johnson.
–For the second straight game, the Ravens got a sack from a DB (Powers, Webb).
–The pass rush had an impact on all 3 turnovers.
–To summarize in words, the pass rush turned in an outstanding performance and the defense as a whole further beat the expectation for this limited opportunity set by 75 yards.
–Matt Judon played just 12 pass snaps among 14 total, but contributed 2 pressures and recovered a fumble.
–Za’Darius Smith rushed 23 times with his first sack, a forced fumble, and 4 other pressures. The Ravens continued their practice of playing 3 OLBs on 3rd down, but Smith played several snaps from the inside versus the Browns which allowed he, Judon, and Suggs to play simultaneously.
—Terrell Suggs rushed on 25 of his 27 pass snaps. Those included 4 pressures, a QH, a sack/FF, and a pass deflected for an interception by Jerraud Powers. It was great to see him put up a game like this when just 4 days prior he appeared significantly impaired by the biceps injury. It was another top-shelf game for his Hall of Fame career and Colinsworth appropriately singled him out for praise.
–Timmy Jernigan rushed the passer on 28 snaps. He beat RG Greco for a sack and had 4 other pressures.
—Lawrence Guy had 2 pressures and a QH in just 13 pass rush snaps. His waist-level QH with an opposite-side hit from Smith (Q3, 0:05) was a reminder of the physical beating the Ravens administered to McCown in week 2.
—Brandon Williams (17 rushes) and Michael Pierce (12) each had a pressure. Williams nearly intercepted Pierce’s batted pass for a TD (Q4, 3:27).
–Brent Urban (3 pass rush snaps) had a pressure and swatted away a pass at the LoS.
I will publish my pass rush scoring by play later today. I hope you’ll take 15-20 minutes to enjoy a review of each Browns drop back on Game Pass.
I’ll try to summarize with just a few bullets:
–The Browns 85-yard TD by Crowell in week 2 remains 13.2% of the rushing yards the Ravens have allowed this season.
–Versus the Browns, they allowed just 2.5 yards per rush with a long of 9.
–Michael Pierce, who has regularly bench pressed offensive linemen for penetration, demonstrated astounding quickness to make C Erving whiff (Q1, 5:32) when he took down Crowell for a loss of 2.
–The Ravens only allowed 1 running play over 3 yards with Pierce or Williams in the game. Predictably, that play was run behind LT to avoid the Ravens behemoths (Q2, 7:54).
Here are racing form notes on another fine performance:
–(Q1, 11:44) Juked by Coleman for 3 extra yards on PM13
–(Q2, 14:34) Delivers PD from behind vs. Coleman to deny 3rd and 4
–(Q2, 8:27) Flagged for ticky-tack DPI on Coleman with classic arm-on/am-over move to knock away ball
–(Q2, 2:34) Takes down Crowell for gain of 2 (0 + 2 YAC) by right sideline
–(Q3, 14:33) Takes down Coleman for 3-yard loss on WR screen right (-3 + 0 YAC)
–(Q3, 9:36) Helps control edge on Crowell RL2 despite hold from Coleman
–(Q4, 5:48) Strips Pryor of potential 10-yard reception by right sideline
He and Jimmy Smith make an excellent speed/physicality corner pairing that can be effectively used vs. many receiving combinations if they can seamlessly switch sides of the field. Coleman and Pryor provided just such a differentiated receiving pair.
3rd: Za’Darius Smith
2nd: Tavon Young
1st: Terrell Suggs