The Ravens picked up their eighth win of the season on Sunday night, grinding out a 16-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. It was another “ugly” performance in many respects, namely a sluggish offensive showing, but again the Ravens emerged on the right side of the win column.
Below are a few takeaways from Baltimore’s six-point victory —
Shutting down the run
Heading into this matchup, the writing appeared to be on the wall that the Browns would have success running the ball. The Browns have the top-ranked rushing attack and offensive line in the NFL, for starters. Kareem Hunt was returning to the lineup and the Ravens were without their best defensive lineman and run defender in Calais Campbell.
Instead, the Ravens’ front stepped up to the task with an impressive performance. Thanks to consistent push from the likes of Brandon Williams, Justin Madubuike, Justin Ellis and company, the Ravens held the Browns to just 40 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Cleveland’s offense goes as Nick Chubb and Hunt go, and the Ravens neutralized both into being non-factors all night. Both players have game-breaking ability but the longest run of the night for the Browns was nine yards.
The formula for the Browns to win this game was to run the ball successfully and take pressure off their injured quarterback. The Ravens successfully flipped the script and forced the Browns to throw the ball nearly 40 times. Aside from a few long Baker Mayfield completions and one touchdown pass, this worked in their favor.
Edge defenders win the night
The strong play of the defensive lineman goes hand-and-hand with the performance of the Ravens’ edge defenders, which was similarly outstanding. Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston had their fingerprints all over this game.
In the first half, Oweh had four pressures by himself and was in the backfield on seemingly every play. Oweh’s sack and forced fumble on the Browns’ second drive of the second quarter could have been a game-breaking moment, had the remainder of the quarter played out differently. A few drives later, Oweh recovered another fumble.
For the second straight game, Bowser played like a man possessed. He finished the night with three quarterback hits in addition to a sack and tackle-for-loss. Bowser was within arms-length of at least another sack or two, also. He made plays in coverage and came up with the game-clinching tackle on 4th-&-7 late in the fourth quarter.
Bowser is coming on strong and him and Oweh give the Ravens a dynamic, athletic 1-2 punch. Houston’s presence should not go unnoticed, either. Houston consistently won 1-on-1 reps in this game and made Mayfield uncomfortable. He too could have had a sack or two.
The Ravens have been on the wrong end of the turnover battle more often than not this season. This is usually a losing formula but the Ravens have found ways to win in spite of not forcing many turnovers.
Tonight, they forced two fumbles and came up just short of at least another takeaway or two. Chuck Clark dropped a “room service” interception in the second half. Unfortunately, the Ravens’ offense doubled the defense’s efforts with four turnovers of their own.
Lamar Jackson threw three interceptions in a span of just over two minutes at the end of the first half. Then, he was picked off again at the beginning of the fourth quarter. All four of his interceptions came when targeting Mark Andrews.
The first interception was an odd case of the ball being deflected by Rashod Bateman in-route to Andrews and then corralled by a Browns’ defender in mid-air. The next three were the result of Jackson not seeing a lurking safety, making an off-target throw over the middle and then underthrowing a deep pass. It was bizarre and uncharacteristic.
This marked the first time ever Jackson has thrown four picks in one game and will hopefully be the last. The Ravens were fortunate to have won in spite of Jackson’s turnover-happy ways. Since 2015, no team had ever won when their starting quarterback tossed four interceptions in one game — before tonight.
Struggles on first down
The Ravens could and frankly should have scored more than 16 points in this game. Turning the ball over at such a high rate certainly did not help, but they also did not do themselves any favors in first-down situations.
Almost all night long, the Ravens were stuffed when they attempted to run the ball on first down. In the first half, they ran the ball on first down six times for a total of five rushing yards. They found a bit more success rushing on first down in the second half, but six more attempts went for gains of two yards or less.
This was both frustrating to watch but also contributed to the Ravens finding themselves in second-and-long and third-and-long situations. Fortunately, they converted on 7-of-15 third down attempts. This attempt total could have been lower, however, had they gained more yardage to begin sequences.
Throwing the ball on first down also brought about mixed results and the Browns’ defensive front deserves credit for playing the run well up front.
Touchdowns would be nice . . .
The Ravens won again tonight but for the third consecutive game, they scored just one offensive touchdown. Since their 34-point explosion against the Vikings on November 7, the Ravens have now scored a combined 46 points against the Dolphins, Bears and Browns.
Some were willing to write off the offensive struggles in Miami because it was a short week, classic “trap game”, etc. Same goes for last week’s outing where the Ravens were without both Jackson and Marquise Brown in the lineup. Tonight, though, the offense was about as full strength as they’ll likely be the rest of the season and still only put the ball in the end zone once.
The second quarter was a brutal sequence of failing to capitalize on scoring chances. They settled for a field goal in the red zone after a 17-play drive that ate up over eight minutes off the clock. Then of course, they turned the ball over on three straight possessions.
To their credit, they’ve won the past two games despite scoring just 16 points in each of them. That’s a testament to non-offensive factors like defense, special teams and coaching. However, they really need to find more of a scoring rhythm right away with a tough stretch of games forthcoming to end the season.