As expected, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.
Well, kind of expected. The Ravens were double-digit favorites at home, but Brandon Weeden and the Browns gave them everything they could before Baltimore finally escaped with a 23-16 win.
Joe Flacco threw an early touchdown to Torrey Smith and added a rushing score in the third before cornerback Cary Williams put the game away with a huge pick-six. At that point, the game appeared to be well in hand for Baltimore.
But a bunch of long Phil Dawson field goals and a near-epic comeback drive by Weeden made Ravens fans sweat it out a little bit. Let's take a closer look at this hard-fought contest.
Despite an early ugly interception, Joe Flacco was flashing some of that "elite" ability in the first half. Via ESPN Stats & Info:
Joe Flacco is perfect so far on throws inside the numbers: 6-6, 68 yards and a touchdown. He's averaging 11.3 yds/att on those throws.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 28, 2012
And as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pointed out, it's not like he was doing that against some bottom-of-the-line defense:
Really impressed by this #Browns defense tonight. Getting very good pressure. Definitely miss Joe Haden though.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 28, 2012
As halftime approached, we were locked in a 9-7 snoozefest and looking for something, anything, to keep our interest. Luckily, NFL Network had just the thing: Halota Ngata rugby video. Seriously.
The NFL Network's Albert Breer wanted more, as did everyone else, I'm sure:
I wanna see more of the Haloti-Ngata-dominating-in-rugby video.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 28, 2012
Halfway through the third quarter, Brandon Weeden threw some sort of pass-type thing that was intercepted by Cary Williams and taken 63 yards back to the house. NFL scout guru Josh Liskiewitz on just how bad it was:
Saw that coming a mile away, Weeden stared his man down and was late on the throw.— Josh Liskiewitz (@JoshLiskiewitz) September 28, 2012
Legion Sports pointed out the odd discrepancy of Baltimore's plays:
Flacco 45 pass attempts Rice 14 rush attempts....hmm— Legion Sports (@MySportsLegion) September 28, 2012
It's like Cam Cameron all of a sudden turned into Andy Reid.
This last one isn't about the Ravens or Browns, but I'm sure all of you were wondering where Ed Hochuli's biceps would be making their debut. ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Drumroll, please...Cincinnati and Jacksonville officials have been informed that, for Sunday, they will have Ed Hochuli and his crew.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 28, 2012
For a complete look at Thursday night's box score, check out NFL.com.
Fantasy owners were likely very happy with all of Baltimore's offense. Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith all had huge games, as the Ravens turned to the passing game early and often.
Ray Rice wasn't his normally elite self, but his eight receptions likely saved owners in PPR leagues.
On the other side of the field, Trent Richardson continued to establish himself as a top fantasy option, as he tallied 104 total yards and a touchdown against a very good defense.
Greg Little had 77 receiving yards, but he would have had a huge day if not for multiple drops.
Joe Flacco deserves what grade?
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: B+
On one hand, Flacco threw for 356 yards and one touchdown while running for another score.
On the other, he threw an abominable interception early in the game, completed only 61 percent of his passes and didn't always look crisp, although part of that had to do with the constant pressure he faced.
So, do with that what you will. It wasn't quite an elite performance from Flacco, but there's a good chance the Ravens wouldn't have won without him.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns: B-
The final numbers certainly aren't pretty: 25-of-52, 320 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. Some of the throws en route to those numbers, including his pick-six, were also, at times, atrocious.
But despite what Weeden's ID might tell you, he is a rookie. And he was on the road against a very intimidating defense.
Suddenly, his numbers go from poor to, get ready for it, average!
Additionally, Weeden actually mixed in some good throws, made some solid reads, often looked confident stepping up in the pocket, spread the ball to a lot of different receivers, got much better as the game went on, and was also hurt by drops.
Hey, so Weeden actually can handle the NFL. Next step: consistency.
The now 3-1 Baltimore Ravens head to Kansas City where they will take on the Chiefs in Week 5.
The Browns will attempt to grab their first win when they go to New York and battle the Giants. Good luck.