The Baltimore Ravens responded exceptionally well from suffering their first setback in their 2023 quest for a championship a week ago by blowing out the Cleveland Browns 28-3 on the road in Week 4. In much dryer weather conditions this time around, the offense caught fire in the first half before taking their foot off the gas a little bit after halftime because the defense dominated from start to finish.
Here are some of the top takeaways from the Ravens’ Week 4 victory in which players in all three phases had standout performances.
Lamar Jackson was magnificent against another divisional foe
Even though he didn’t have two of his top wide receivers or his All-Pro left tackle for the third week in a row, the former unanimous league MVP was sensationally dynamic with the way he made plays through the air and on the ground. Jackson ran and threw for a pair of scores, totaling four, and finished 15-of-19 for 187 passing yards with a passer rating of 142.8, and ran the ball nine times for 27 yards.
The two-time Pro Bowler was surgical from inside the pocket in the Ravens’ Week 2 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and against another AFC North rival with an even better defense, he had another masterful performance. He organized and executed the offense at an elite level for long stretches.
“To operate against this defense is really a challenge and Lamar kept his poise,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He was running the show out there. He was the point guard, he was the general, he was making the calls, making the changes, handling the shot clock. I just thought he played a fantastic game.”
Mark Andrews is back to playing like his usual dominant self
The three-time Pro Bowl tight end was Jackson’s popular and potent target on the day, catching all of his team-leading five targets for a game-high and season-high 80 receiving yards, and was the recipient of both of his quarterback’s touchdown passes. His first scoring snag came over a pair of Browns defensive backs in the back of the end zone and put the Ravens up by three scores just before halftime.
Andrews was especially impressive after the catch. On multiple plays he caught the ball short of the line to gain or end zone and made a defender miss in space before proceeding to make a big play. After missing the regular season opener with a quad injury, the healthy sixth-year veteran appears to have recaptured his elite form.
Defense outplayed Cleveland’s vaunted unit
The Browns came into this matchup with the top-ranked defense in several major efficiency statistical categories, including some historically low numbers through the first three weeks. In the week leading up to the game, veteran defensive tackle Michael Pierce said that the Ravens defense—which is also among the league’s best—wanted to “outplay” their highly touted counterparts and that’s exactly what they did on Sunday.
With their three-time Pro Bowl starting quarterback Deshaun Watson out with a shoulder injury, the Browns were forced to start fifth-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The first-year signal caller’s first career start couldn’t have gone any worse for the home team as the Ravens terrorized him from start to literally the last snap of the game.
They picked him off three times, sacked him three times, hit him eight times with relentless pressure, and held him to just 19-of-36 for 121 passing yards thanks to a lot of tight coverage. Three different Ravens recorded an interception including the first in the careers of both Brandon Stephens and Kyle Hamilton and the second of the season for Geno Stone.
All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith made national headlines leading up to the game with comments from a press conference that were taken out of context and branded as bulletin board material by local and national media. On Sunday he backed up his words in their proper context with a dominant showing in which he recorded a game-high 10 total tackles including one for a loss, a quarterback hit, and two pass breakups that were nearly interceptions after he perfectly jumped underneath the routes over the middle of the field.
“When that whistle blows, I’m going 100 MPH all game long.” pic.twitter.com/nOfhjZwrb2— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) October 1, 2023
“He sets the tone and he did set the tone this week,” Harbaugh said. “The thing I love about Ro is that he’s Ro. He’s his self, he’s the best version of his self, he’s honest, he’s straightforward, he’s a man of character and he’s a leader and he backs it up.”
#Ravens LB Roquan Smith on Browns defense: "I heard that they were like the No. 1 defense in the league through Week . That’s through Week . It’s a long season along the way. Hats off to those guys for playing good defense. I respect them."— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) October 1, 2023
Ravens have two deadly specialist weapons
In the second half when the Ravens were content playing the field position battle, the Browns regularly began their offensive drives deep in their own territory courtesy of starting punter Jordan Stout. The second-year specialist pinned them them inside their own 20-yard line with surgical precision and ball placement three times, including twice inside the 10. He punted a whopping seven times for 333 yards with an average of 47.6 yards and a long of 59 yards.
The Ravens already have a household name in the kicking game with future Hall of Famer Justin Tucker still performing at an elite level. If Stout continues his strong start to the 2023 season, the 2022 fourth-round pick could establish himself as one of the best in the league and extend the legacy of punting excellence that his predecessor and coach, Sam Koch, maintained in Baltimore for nearly two decades.
Injury bug still reared it’s ugly head
Whether the Ravens win or lose, they have yet to come out of a game unscathed. Several players, including a couple of starters, went down with injuries and only one returned to the game. Their defensive backs were hit especially hard with Daryl Worley leaving early with an injured shoulder while Arthur Maulet (concussion protocol) and Jalyn Armour-Davis (hamstring) left in the second half. Veteran right tackle Morgan Moses also left with a shoulder injury in the second half but returned to the sidelines in street closes without wearing a sling.
Maulet cleared protocol and returned to the game. Following the game, Harbaugh told reporters that Moses will receive an MRI on Monday.
John Harbaugh said the Ravens will know more about OT Morgan Moses (shoulder) on Monday after MRI— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) October 1, 2023
Moses was replaced in the lineup by second-year pro Daniel Faalele who gave up a sack late in the game after being beat around the edge before Jackson could step up. If the 10-year veteran isn’t able to return to duty, the Ravens will have a relatively inexperienced right tackle starting against another potent pass rush next week when they play a second straight divisional game on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers.