Ravens vs. Browns: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Cleveland
The Baltimore Ravens (6-2) defeated the Cleveland Browns (2-7) by a 25-15 margin in their Week 9 AFC North matchup at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland. It is the Ravens 10th consecutive win over their former franchise.
Brandon Weeden completed just 54 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions while running back Trent Richardson went for over 100 yards for the third time this season.
Richardson's 100-yard performance against Baltimore made him the first rookie to accomplish that feat since Fred Taylor did it in 1998.
Baltimore started the game out hot, taking a 14-0 lead after making their first two drives look easy. Cleveland, on the other hand, started with two three-and-outs in the opening period.
The game momentum shifted from that point.
Cleveland closed the gap to 14-12 at halftime after accruing three second-quarter field goals. However, their inability to get into the end zone ended up being their downfall in this one.
Josh Gordon and Brandon Weeden connected on a 18-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter but the play was called back due to an illegal formation call against the Browns' offense.
Baltimore sealed the game after Pat Shurmur dialed up a fourth-and-two try while in Browns territory. The Ravens got the ball back, kicked a field goal and went by up 10 points with a little over two minutes left to play.
Brandon Weeden: F
Bradon Weeden: F
29-year old rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden didn’t look like himself in Week 9. He regressed significantly and looked surprised by the things he was seeing in the secondary and was slow to react to do anything about it.
Pressure wasn’t intense, either, from the ailing Baltimore defense. He had time but chose check-down receivers as his primary outlets.
When he did take some chances downfield, Weeden came up short often and his passes looked out of sync from where his receivers were and were going to be at.
He still made some throws at times to keep the Browns in it, including an 18-yard touchdown pass that would have put the team up by five points in the fourth quarter if not for an illegal formation.
This will be grouped with his poor performance in Week 1 in the “Wish I could have that one back” when Weeden’s being evaluated in preparation for the 2013 draft.
Should the Browns consider taking another first-round quarterback this year? A few more games like this and that question will morph into a likely scenario.
Trent Richardson: A
Richardson totaled 31 touches but seemed like he was used sparingly. It’s hard to explain, but he saw some great success at times and at others was pounded into the line-of-scrimmage for consecutive short gainers.
Overall, Richardson played a solid game despite fumbling early in the game on a second-and-one play. The Browns recovered but that play set up a third-and-short in which the Browns elected to pass, resulting in a punt.
He became the first rookie to run for over 100 yards on the Ravens defense since Fred Taylor accomplished that feat for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1998.
Chris Ogbonnaya: C
Ogbonnaya was targeted twice and failed to bring in either target. The first was a poorly thrown ball on a wheel route in which Ogbonnaya beat the coverage and had nothing but daylight ahead of him downfield. Weeden’s pass hit off the running back’s outstretched hands but he couldn’t haul it in.
Greg Little: B+
Little, who has been dealing with drops lately, continued making positive strides with a decent performance this week.
He led the team in receiving by hauling in five of his seven targets for 52 yards. He had just one drop on the afternoon.
Josh Gordon: B
The Browns’ big-play receiver gave them the edge they needed by taking a post route 18-yards up the middle of the field for a Browns touchdown. That would have given him a three-catch and 50-plus yard day with a touchdown.
Instead he finished with just two catches on three targets for 38 yards. He was also flagged on two questionable calls. The first, a pass interference call, was a horrible call in which he was tackled by the Ravens’ defender but called for the flag. His second penalty came on a crack-back block which negated a 10-yard end around gain by receiver Travis Benjamin.
Mohamed Massaquoi: C-
Massaquoi had a quiet game in his first appearance in weeks due to his rehab from a lingering hamstring injury. He was targeted just three times and hauled in one pass for six yards.
Travis Benjamin: C+
Benjamin hauled in one pass, a big 16-yard gainer that gave the Browns good field position. It ultimately led to a field goal for the team.
He also had a 10-yard end around negated by the penalty on Josh Gordon’s block.
Benjamin Watson: B-
Watson had an okay game. He pulled in two passes for 22 yards on three targets. His biggest play came on an 11-yard catch-and-run that set up the Browns for field goal
Jordan Cameron: C
The only two passes Cameron saw were severely underthrown by Weeden. The young tight end and the rookie quarterback either weren’t on the same page or Weeden just missed him badly.
Cameron wasn’t even looking for the second incompletion that was picked off by the Ravens.
Alex Smith: C-
It isn’t Smith’s fault the team chose to throw the ball to him on flare passes in third-and-long situations. He isn’t a dynamic athlete and isn’t capable of making defenders miss to get yards upfield.
He did drop one throw on a third-and-short but would have been short of the first-down marker regardless. He hauled in three passes of the four targets that came his way for just eight total yards (2.7 yards per catch).
Joe Thomas: A
Thomas played pretty well in this game, holding down Terrell Suggs for much for much of the game. That’s no easy task even if Suggs isn’t back to 100 percent yet.
John Greco and Alex Mack: B+
Just one sack and 100-plus yards on the ground for Trent Richardson means the interior linemen did their job for the most part.
Shawn Lauvao: C+
Lauvao and Schwartz had back-to-back false starts that pushed the Browns into a first-and-20 situation. That drive ended with a punt.
Mitchell Schwartz: B-
As noted in Lauvao’s breakdown, Schwartz made a rookie mistake or two in this one. However, he did handle his man and helped move Ravens defenders on the edges to allow Trent Richardson to find creases inside and outside his tackle position.
Jabaal Sheard: A-
Browns’ second-year pass rusher Jabaal Sheard came to play against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9. While absent most of the season from opposing backfields, Sheard combined with Juqua Parker on a key third-down sack that forced a Ravens third-quarter punt.
Billy Winn: C
Billy Winn wasn’t as much of a factor with Phil Taylor back in the defensive tackle rotation. Both players made limited impact, though,
Phil Taylor: C-
Phil Taylor’s return to the lineup was somewhat anti-climactic. The big man in the middle was animated and got into an early scuffle but ended up being more bark than bite in his first action of the 2012 season. He finished with one tackle.
Ray Rice sidestepped and slipped past Taylor around the six-yard line to go in for the first score of the game.
John Hughes: C+
Hughes wasn’t much of a factor on the inside but helped clog the middle of the Browns’ front-seven that limited Ray Rice for much of the game despite being gouged at times.
Frostee Rucker: B+
Rucker had one of his more active defensive games of the season, helping attribute to a defensive stranglehold of the line-of-scrimmage during the second, third and most of the fourth quarter. He finished with six tackles.
Juqua Parker: B
Parker recorded half of the only sack the Browns had all day after him and Jabaal Sheard both beat their man and met at Joe Flacco’s body to bring him down for a big third-down stop. He wasn’t very active with exception to that one play, but that’s what they ask of and need of him off the bench in passing situations.
D’Qwell Jackson: B
D’Qwell Jackson continued to rack up the tackles, recording a team-high nine stops. He’s the rock that’s holding the front-seven of this unit together.
With that said, he and his teammates need to find a way to get late-game stops. They held strong for much of the middle of the game but lost their edge when it counted most in the fourth quarter.
As the defensive captain, Jackson needs to make more game-changing plays and inspire his teammates in times of adversity.
Kaluka Maiava: B+
Maiava played one of his better games in season. He was active in pass coverage and batted down a team-high two passes in the process. He also logged six tackles.
James-Michael Johnson: B+
The rookie linebacker continued to play good in relief for the injured Scott Fujita. He had two significant nice plays, both in the first half. He stuffed Ray Rice at the line-of-scrimmage and then plays later blew up a swing pass for a four-yard loss.
Johnson finished with six tackles but was all over the field and in on almost every play.
Joe Haden: C-
Haden had a decent day but was beat several times. Early on, Anquan Boldin beat him in one-on-one coverage to help set up a touchdown.
The dagger to the Browns chances came after Torrey Smith beat him on an in-route and then spun, took the ball upfield and burned him and the rest of the Browns’ secondary for an 18-yard touchdown.
Sheldon Brown: B+
Sheldon Brown had a good game for the Browns’ defense. Joe Flacco took his shots but the trusty veteran stayed in-step with speedster Torrey Smith on a couple of occasions, forcing him out of bounds on one play that could have ended in a big completion for the Ravens.
Buster Skrine: C+
Skrine was active on defense in limited nickel sets. He finished with five tackles.
T.J. Ward: C
Ward recorded seven tackles but none of his plays were more crucial than a roughing the passer call on him that gave the Ravens’ a chance to take the lead.
Usama Young: B-
Young wasn’t too active but did have four tackles and a nearly-intercepted pass in the waning moments of the third-quarter. It caused a fifth-consecutive Ravens punt.
Phil Dawson: A++
Phil Dawson hit his 23rd-consecutive field goal, going 17 of 17 this year. He hit from 32, 28, 29, 33 and 41 yards out due to the Browns’ inability to finish drives.
He gets a good grade for being the most dependable player on the field for the Browns but shouldn’t have had to kick all five of those field goals.
Reggie Hodges: B+
Hodges had a pretty good day of punting, much better than in recent weeks. He averaged 42.5 yards in four punts.
Josh Cribbs: B
Cribbs continued to be solid but unspectacular in the return game in Week 9. He did make a bad decision in bringing a late fourth-quarter kickoff out of the end zone and forced the Browns to start at the 15-yard line. However, it’s hard to blame him for that as he was trying to make something happen with the time winding down on the Browns’ chances. No issue on that one.
Pat Shurmur: F
Pat Shurmur’s coaching days in Cleveland may be coming to an end. While a move at this point in the season may not be a great idea, there is no better time than during the team’s bye week. An interim role by either Dick Jauron or Brad Childress to finish out the season would be the best solution.
Shurmur is lacking a situational awareness in which he makes questionable calls and makes them at the wrong times. Screen passes on first-and-20 and pass plays on third-and-one are a glaring example of the maddening calls he dialed up in this one.
He’s also oblivious to game situations and is failing to prepare his rookie quarterback to succeed by getting plays in quickly. That’s resulting in wasted timeouts for the Browns. The timeouts didn’t really hurt the team this week but they could have used them.
Shurmur also went into conservative mode each time the Browns got within range for Phil Dawson’s leg.
Two weeks ago Shurmur was criticized for his decision to punt on fourth-and-one while inside Indianapolis Colts territory. This time, he went for it with over two minutes to play from the team’s side of the field. The result was a turnover on downs and a game-clinching field goal for the Ravens.
It’s becoming more and more obvious that Shurmur is not capable of effectively making game-time decisions as the head of a football team.
It would be different if this coach was showing improvement in his decision making or in his play calling but that just isn’t happening.
Dick Jauron: B-
Dick Jauron’s defense was caught off balance in the first quarter but clamped down on the Ravens and looked to be one-step ahead for most of the remaining three quarters. Credit that to Jauron and his scheme and coaching.
However, again, with the game on the line, the Browns defense was picked apart by a very creative set of play calling by the Ravens. It’s hard to blame Jauron, he sent pressure and kept things aggressive but his players just weren’t getting to Flacco in time.
Brad Childress: C
It’s virtually impossible to decide whether Childress’ input is being used by Shurmur when calling plays or whether he’s overruling the veteran coordinator.
It’s hard to blame him when game plans have been effective at times but situationally horrible at others.
Mike Hoag Jr. is the Cleveland Browns Gameday Correspondent for Bleacher Report. He's also a Breaking News Team writer and featured NFL and Browns columnist for the site.