Well, that was ... something. In a high stakes divisional showdown, the Ravens were thoroughly outplayed by their counterpart and failed to take advantage of an opportunity to put a stranglehold on the division lead.
To the takeaways machine we go.
1) Missed tackles, busted coverages ... rinse, wash, repeat
The overarching story over the past two weeks has been the Ravens’ inability to prevent and stop big plays on the defense side of the ball. Against the Browns, this was once again a recurring issue. Ugly miscommunications in the secondary reared their head on multiple occasions, namely on allowed completions of 60 yards from Jarvis Landry and 59 yards from Ricky Seals-Jones.
Baltimore also struggled to stop the run for the second consecutive week. After seeing LeSean McCoy and Darrell Williams combine for a few chunk plays in Week 3, second-year RB Nick Chubb had his way on Sunday. Chubb turned 20 carries into 162 rushing yards and three touchdowns, including an 88-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. On Chubb’s second touchdown and on Landry’s 60-yard completion, 3-4 Ravens’ players missed tackles. It was simply a pitiful defensive performance on every level, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the solution is.
2) Marlon Humphrey is good ... really good
In what was largely a lackluster performance from the defense, there was one underlying bright spot - Marlon Humphrey. The emerging cornerback was tasked with shadowing one of the league’s best receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and did so nearly the entire game, limiting him to two catches on eight targets - both of which came late in the game. Wherever Beckham went, Humphrey was right alongside him and it was an effective strategy.
Beckham clearly became frustrated in the third quarter, too. Known for being highly-emotional, Beckham threw Humphrey down by the neck and threw a punch, too, which sparked a back-and-forth scuffle. Humphrey was the team’s most consistent defensive player last season and based on what we’ve seen in the first four weeks, nothing seems to have changed.
3) Don’t blame Lamar Jackson for this loss
On the surface, the box score might tell you that Jackson had his worst performance of the season. While his passing yardage total left much to be desired, Jackson cannot be faulted for Sunday’s loss. Jackson was largely efficient through the air and once again made his mark on the ground, rushing for ____ yards. The fact of the matter is Jackson’s receivers let him down on more than one occasion.
In the first half, Mark Andrews dropped a would-be first down and Chris Moore stepped out of bounds after a 26-yard completion on third down - both of which thwarted what may have been scoring drives. Later in the game, Marquise Brown dropped two passes of his own. Jackson threw his first two interceptions of the season midway through the fourth quarter but at that point, the game was out of hand. The first one came on a deep shot to Mark Andrews, the second interception was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Jackson was far from perfect, but the box score fails to tell the story of this game. The Ravens have a lot of areas of concern, but Jackson shouldn’t be very high on the list.
4) Jarvis Landry has the Ravens’ number
Odell Beckham Jr. may be Cleveland’s best wideout, but it was Jarvis Landry who killed the Ravens on Sunday. Entering Week 4, Landry had just 10 receptions for 161 yards on the season - and nearly matched that production alone against Baltimore. Landry caught eight passes for 167 yards, routinely shredding the Ravens defense over the middle of the field. Since joining the Browns last season, Landry has now had success against the Ravens in all three of their meetings. Here’s a breakdown of these performances:
- 10/17, 2018: 5 receptions, 69 yards
- 12/30: 2018: 5 receptions, 102 yards, 1 TD
- 9/29, 2019: 8 receptions, 167 yards
5) Offense needs more pop and creativity
Per usual, Baltimore’s rushing attack was effective in Week 4. Mark Ingram rushed for 71 yards on 12 carries, Lamar Jackson had 66 rushing yards, and Gus Edwards was efficient once again (4.7 YPC). The issue is, however, that the team’s rushing success can only take them so far. As was the case against Kansas City, the Ravens fell behind to Cleveland and when you need a lot of points in a short time frame, pounding the ball up the middle isn’t exactly the most ideal gameplan.
The Ravens were forced to punt the ball away on their first three drives. Against the Chiefs, they fell into a similar offensive lull after a touchdown on the opening drive. Greg Roman needs to develop a more creative gameplan for the team to find offensive success. The downfield passing attack we saw through Weeks 1-2 has fizzled out and over the past two weeks, the field has shortened for Baltimore and they’re struggling to produce big plays. Something needs to change on that front.