Three weeks ago in Cleveland Ray Rice ran for the first 200 yard game of his career. Rice capped off a great day running the ball with a beastly 67 yard run down inside the Browns five yard line in the third quarter. He ended up with 204 yards and a touchdown for the day.
Since then the Browns have focused on revamping their run game. Cleveland broke down their entire defense and refocused it around stopping the run.Since Rice ran rampant through Cleveland three weeks ago the Browns have held Pittsburghs' Rashard Mendenhall and Arizonas' Chris Wells both under 100 yards. When asked about the improvement of the run defense here is what Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron had to say:
Jauron understands the importance of stopping Ray Rice this week in Baltimore. This is the number one thing they are focusing on coming to Baltimore this weekend. Jauron is confident the Browns secondary can stick with the Ravens receivers but when asked about facing Rice for a second time he was very complimentary of the Ravens star running back.
"Just like you said, the numbers have been better. We’re not big on numbers except for that ‘W’. We’re still not winning and that’s the deal. We’ve got to find ways to play enough to win games. It’s kind of what we’re aiming at. I believe that our guys are obviously at this point in the year they’re a little bit familiar with what we’re doing every week. They get a little more experienced every week. They’re good guys. They’ll play hard. They sell out for you and we’ve just got to hope it keeps going that way, keeps trending and getting a little better all the time."
"Obviously it wasn’t what we wanted the first time. He is an exceptional player. I don’t know that we can make sure things happen, but we’ll certainly try not to have that happen again. They’re very good at what they do. We’ve made some adjustments. We’ll just have to see if they work out the way we would like them to work out. Obviously, they’ll make adjustments too. They do an outstanding job. He’s an exceptional player."
However, when explaining how Rice had been so successful the first time Jauron seemed to think it was more a break down of their defensive schemes than the over all talent of Rice and the Ravens running game.
"Everything that doesn’t work, it’s that something breaks down. Obviously some things broke down. It wasn’t always the same thing. Everybody’s got to do their job on every play. I’ve got to make better calls, I’ve got to play them better, people have to stay in their gaps, but it’s not consistently one thing."
One thing is for sure, Cleveland is going to do anything and everything to stop Ray Rice this weekend. When Rice was asked about facing the team he earlier demolished, Rice stated:
"We had to run the ball in that game, (referring to the weather) Coming into this game we know Cleveland is a prideful bunch. They're not just going to let you walk all over them."
Baltimore will need Joe Flacco to make some plays in the passing game to spread the defense out a bit and get Rice some room to run. Joe Haden is Cleveland's top cover corner and it will be interesting to see if they put him on Anquan Boldin or Torrey Smith. Either way some one will get the better match up as there is a steep drop off in talent after Haden.
In fact, this would be a great game to try and get Lee Evans the ball. Baltimore is going to have to work him into the offense at some point and time is running out. In the playoffs, if the Ravens get matched up with a team with a strong secondary like the Jets, it would be very beneficial to have a third receiver that is capable of exploiting mismatches. Evans could be a valuable weapon if he is able to get close to his former level of play. It is up to Cam Cameron and Flacco to get him involved and see if he has anything left...