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Ravens News 11/14: Reality Check

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Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 33-31 loss to the Cleveland Browns

Brian Wacker, The Baltimore Sun

Zay Flowers is the Ravens’ best wide receiver

Much was made about Odell Beckham Jr. when the Ravens doled out $15 million for the former All-Pro wide receiver, but it’s Zay Flowers who has easily been Baltimore’s best receiver and was again Sunday.

The rookie out of Boston College had five catches for 73 yards, but the numbers don’t come close to telling the whole story. His playmaking ability is, outside of Jackson, the best on the team.

Midway through the fourth quarter and with the Ravens clinging to a one-point lead on third-and-8 from their own 27, Flowers hauled in an 11-yard pass to extend the drive. In the third, he had an 18-yard grab working his way open in the middle of the field. In the second, he had consecutive catches of 16 and 14 yards in which he picked up a handful of yards after each catch thanks to quick feet and shifty moves.

And even when he didn’t have a catch he showed how dangerous he could be, breaking free on a deep route up the right sideline in which he was open but Jackson overthrew him.

Flowers’ five catches and six targets led the team, and the Ravens need to continue to find ways to get him the ball.

Five Takeaways From The Ravens’ 33-31 Loss To The Browns

Bo Smolka, PressBox

The comparisons to the 2000 Ravens defense were premature.

This was a reckoning for a Ravens defense that had allowed the fewest points in the league and had deserved its share of headlines but was pretty much beaten at every level.

Head coach John Harbaugh and defensive lineman Justin Madubuike said the game plan was to contain quarterback Deshaun Watson, keep him in the pocket and not let him extend plays. Watson, though, was able to do precisely that far too often. When he did, he found room to run or found open receivers in the middle of the field.

Watson had missed the Week 4 matchup against the Ravens, and he was slow to get up more than once, but he still had plenty of zip on the ball.

The Browns, playing without their top three tackles, totaled 178 rushing yards and 373 yards overall, both season highs allowed by the Ravens.

When the Ravens needed to get a stop, they couldn’t. On the Browns’ final drive, Odafe Oweh sacked Watson and forced a fumble, but Browns guard Wyatt Teller recovered to keep possession. Facing second-and-19, Watson found Amari Cooper wide open down the middle for a gain of 17, and Ford then gained 5 of his 107 yards for the first down.

Two weeks ago, Ravens defensive players left the field in Arizona upset that they had allowed 17 late points in what proved to be a comfortable win. That was understandable in a way, as the Ravens acknowledged they played more passively with the lead. Not this time. The Ravens needed a stop, and they couldn’t get it. The challenge for defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is to figure out why not.

Ravens Reality Check: Fourth-quarter slumps draw harsh spotlight for Baltimore

Kyle Goon, The Baltimore Banner

Jonas Shaffer broke down how unique the Browns loss was in his game story yesterday, in part because of the margin the Ravens were winning by. But there’s little doubting it is part of a troubling trend that has been going on for months: As the game progresses, the Ravens struggle more.

The reasoning varies, and the Ravens weren’t particularly good in any one phase against Cleveland. A lot of folks will look at the run game, which dried up for 44 yards on 13 carries in the second half. After a 39-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the game, Keaton Mitchell got just one carry for two yards in the second half — a head-scratcher even though many fans didn’t know who Mitchell was before his breakout game against the Seahawks.

It’s hard to put one exact finger on it when the defense was getting bulldozed and the offensive line was on its heels for just about the entire second half.

NFL Week 10 overreactions, reality checks: Lions biggest threat in NFC to Eagles? Texans win AFC South?

Jeff Kerr, CBS Sports

Ravens can’t be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender

Overreaction or reality: Reality

The Ravens were in the making of another massive blowout victory at home, leading the Browns 31-17 in the fourth quarter of a game they essentially dominated through the first three quarters. Then Baltimore went eight plays for 23 yards the rest of the way, starting with a Lamar Jackson interception with Baltimore up, 31-24, that was returned for a touchdown with 8:18 left.

Jackson couldn’t get the Ravens down the field to stretch the lead, going 1 of 4 for 11 yards with an interception in the final two possessions. The Browns never had a AFC North road victory when trailing by 14-plus points prior to Sunday, showcasing the wrong side of history the Ravens were on.

This has been a trend in Baltimore. The Ravens have lost nine games when leading by seven-plus points in the fourth quarter, the most by any team in any three-year span in NFL history. New offensive coordinator, same issues late.

As good as Baltimore is, hard to take them seriously as a Super Bowl contender with the blown leads late.

NFL Week 10 takeaways: C.J. Stroud enters the MVP race; 49ers back in business

Ted Nguyễn, The Athletic

The Ravens and Bengals both were upset at home on Sunday ahead of their anticipated meeting Thursday night in Baltimore. With both needing to bounce back on a short week, what should we expect in that marquee AFC North matchup?

The Ravens game was a wonky one in which they were in control for almost the entire game. Jackson made some uncharacteristic mistakes, throwing a pick-six in the fourth quarter. I think the Ravens are still the best team in the league.

The Bengals have played better because Burrow is healthier, but they have concerning holes throughout the roster. Their problems on the offensive line were masked by Burrow, and their lack of talent in the defensive secondary was masked by the game planning of defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. But issues can only be masked for so long. I think the Ravens will be focused and play well against the Bengals. I think Burrow keeps them in the game for a while, but the Ravens pull away.