Football is a complicated sport, and even a stats-focused analyst like me would concede that one needs to both watch the games and look at the numbers. That being said, I look at the top three performers on both sides of the ball from Sunday's game according the grading scale provided by Pro Football Focus. I understand that these numbers aren't perfect encapsulations of everything that happened in the game, and a more in-depth explanation of their methodology can be found here.
1. Joe Flacco - QB - 2.5 overall
Flacco's status as the Ravens top offensive performer was most likely due to his strong second half, where he completed 10 of 12 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown while converting six third downs. Sunday's game was certainly not the best we've seen Flacco play; but it was great to see him adjust to a strong Cleveland defense by hitting secondary receivers on crossing routes instead of just chucking the ball downfield. While it's nice to be able to impose one's will on the other team, it's a great sign for Flacco's development that he was able to take what the defense gave him and come away with a win.
2. Bernard Pierce - HB - 1.8 overall
While Pierce, who finished with 57 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, wasn't dominant by any means, he still did a good job filling in for the injured Ray Rice. As the game wound down, Pierce helped drain time off the clock and seemed to get better as the game went on. If Rice's strained hip flexor keeps him out next week, it wouldn't be the end of the world because the high-level play of his backup.
3. Vonta Leach - FB - 1.0 overall
Leach continues to be one of the top fullbacks in the NFL, and is an elite run-blocker for both of the Ravens running backs. Leach might not seem like a game-changing player, but the solid protection he provides is integral to the Ravens rushing attack.
1. Elvis Dumervil - OLB - 5.2 overall
Probably the biggest reason for the Ravens victory against the Browns was their great pass rush. This, in no small part, was due to the excellent play of Dumervil. He absolutely dominated his matchup with Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, finishing with one sack, three QB hits, and two QB hurries. The Ravens bet big that Dumervil would be able to excel next to another top-level pass rusher like Terrell Suggs, and so far, it looks like that bet is paying off.
2. Terrell Suggs - OLB - 2.9 overall
Given the success of the pass rush, it shouldn't be a surprise that the top two pass rushers on the Ravens were the two highest ranking Ravens defensive players. Suggs won his matchup against Joe Thomas, one of the top left tackles in all of football, and finished the day with a sack, two QB hits, and five QB hurries. Against the Browns, the combination of Suggs and Dumervil kept Weeden running in a way we'd only dreamed of throughout the offseason.
3. Haloti Ngata - NT - 2.4 overall
When the opposing offense is by and large ineffective running the ball, you should almost always expect Ngata to be one of the top performing players on the team. Cleveland was held to 65 yards on 20 carries, and Ngata held down the middle with his usual efficiency. He also contributed to the pass rush, adding a QB hit and two QB hurries.