With the victory, Cleveland is now 4-5 and heads into the bye week with very real playoff aspirations. There are no more quarterback questions or outside distractions. All there is now is football.
As you can imagine, the Browns’ full roster grades are going to be very kind this week. Anytime you break an 11-game losing streak to one team, that will happen.
As always, weekly grades are handed out based on how much a player impacted the game, if he won his individual battle, whether he was a positive contributor and if he could have performed better.
Let’s see how the Browns did.
Jason Campbell has now had a quarterback rating over 100 in both of his starts with the Browns. This week he was 23-of-35 for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
Most importantly, however, he did not turn the ball over and the Browns won the game.
Campbell is even playing better than 2011 when he had the Oakland Raiders off to a 4-2 start. That was arguably his best stretch of football as a professional.
He is buying time with his legs, making big throws downfield and spreading the ball around to various receivers. He is doing all this without a running game too. That’s what is most impressive.
Previous position grades: D+, C+, C+, A, B, D+, F, A
Willis McGahee and Fozzy Whittaker: D
Gaining just 42 yards on 22 combined carries isn’t going to get Willis McGahee and Fozzy Whittaker a passing grade. That is a pitiful 1.9 yards-per-carry average.
The Browns did get creative and run Josh Gordon once for 10 yards, and they need to expand that part of the playbook.
There were numerous 3rd-and-short situations that the Browns simply could not convert on the ground. Relying on your passing game on every short-yardage situation will come back to bite you sooner or later.
The backs did play well in pass protection, so that saved them from an F grade.
Previous position grades: C-, C-, D+, B-, B+, B+, D, C-
Josh Gordon, Davone Bess and Greg Little: B+
Davone Bess bounced back from the worst game of his career with the first multiple-touchdown game of his career. He finished with three catches for 24 yards and two touchdowns. Now that is resiliency.
The Browns desperately needed another receiver to step up and make plays. They got two.
Greg Little had the second-best game of his career, catching seven passes for 122 yards. He was a monster after the catch and actually saved an interception on one of them.
He did have two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties after catches, however. I love the intensity and passion, but he needs to realize that 15 yards is tough to come by in the NFL and can absolutely kill a drive.
Previous position grades: D, D, A-, B+, A-, C+, D, C
Jordan Cameron and Gary Barnidge: B
How does a positional group that makes just two catches in a game get a B grade, you ask? Make one of those catches a touchdown and block a nearly perfect game, that’s how.
Jordan Cameron caught just one pass for four yards. He was targeted five times on the day, but the Ravens made a concerted effort to remove him from the Browns arsenal.
Gary Barnidge exploited blown coverage near the goal line for his lone catch that went for a four-yard touchdown.
I continue to be impressed with the improvements in Cameron’s pass and run blocking, however. He obviously takes it seriously and is light-years better than he was last season.
Previous position grades: A-, A-, A, A, C+, B, B+, B+
Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao and Mitchell Schwartz: A
Once again, the offensive line kept the quarterback very clean. It allowed just two sacks and six quarterback hits against a very good Ravens pass rush.
It has now allowed just eights sacks over the past four weeks and is playing like one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.
The Ravens entered the game averaging almost four sacks per game. The run blocking still is not great, but it is tough to tell how much of that is the line and how much of that is the lack of talent in the Browns backfield.
Previous position grades: F, D+, D+, C+, C-, A-, B, A+
Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes, Desmond Bryant, Billy Winn and Armonty Bryant: A
To give this unit anything but an A would be a travesty.
It was dominant in every form and fashion Sunday. It held Ravens running back Ray Rice to 17 yards on 11 carries. That is just 1.5 yards per attempt. It was so dominant that the Ravens’ leading rusher was quarterback Joe Flacco, who had three scrambles for 25 yards.
This unit had 11 tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack in the game. It also hit Flacco three times.
Billy Winn played in his first game since returning from a quad injury and was a monster. When the Browns have their full rotation of defensive linemen, they are one of the best units in the league.
Previous position grades: A+, B-, B-, A-, C+, C+, C+, B+
Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves, Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo: B
Quentin Groves returned from his ankle injury and instantly made his presence felt. He registered a sack.
When this unit has the depth of a four-man rotation, it is very hard to stop. Jabaal Sheard also had a sack, and Paul Kruger had a pass defended.
The Ravens offensive line had all kinds of trouble keeping this unit out of the backfield and was forced to hold on multiple occasions.
The outside linebackers accounted for nine tackles and three quarterback hits against Baltimore.
Previous position grades: A-, A-, B, B-, C, C+, C+, B+
Craig Robertson and D’Qwell Jackson: A+
After weeks of getting abused by opposing running backs and tight ends, this unit had its best performance of the year. D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson put on a show Sunday.
They combined for 15 tackles, and Jackson had a pass defended.
More impressively, however, they allowed just five receptions for 38 yards to the Ravens running backs and tight ends.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has adjusted his scheme to help Robertson and Jackson, but they have also elevated their level of play.
This has been key in the last six quarters of dominating play by the Browns defense.
Previous position grades: B, A-, B-, C+, C-, D-, D-, D
Buster Skrine, Chris Owens and Joe Haden: C+
Joe Haden allowed Ravens receiver Torrey Smith to get behind him one time for a 46-yard gain. Other than that play, he was pretty darn good.
Buster Skrine was beaten twice for touchdowns by Marlon Brown.
While he did not have his best game of the season, Chris Owens did. Owens had nine tackles, two passes defended and a sack against the Ravens.
He also had multiple tackles that stopped Ravens receivers just short of the first-down marker.
When the defensive line and linebackers are getting pressure like they were Sunday, it makes the secondary’s job much easier. Most of the times it was beaten were because Joe Flacco extended the play with his feet.
Previous position grades: C-, C, A, A, A, B-, D+, B
Tashaun Gipson and T.J. Ward: B
Despite the fact that Tashaun Gipson failed to register a tackle against the Ravens, this unit played a very good game.
T.J. Ward logged a sack and got his sixth pass defended of the season. Gipson also defended a pass, his eighth of the year.
Gipson’s range as a free safety allows for Ray Horton to call some very interesting blitzes. The speed and length of Gipson make it so he can rotate wherever needed and defend receivers when called upon.
Ward’s great year is continuing, and he is going to be in for a huge payday this offseason.
Previous position grades: C+, B, B-, C+, A, B+, B, B-
Billy Cundiff, Spencer Lanning, Fozzy Whittaker, Armanti Edwards and coverage units: B
Now that Travis Benjamin is gone, I do not expect the kick and punt returns to be much of a factor. Fozzy Whittaker and Armanti Edwards were solid but not spectacular.
Spencer Lanning is having one heck of a year, though. He averaged 50.5 yards per punt and landed two inside the 20-yard line.
Billy Cundiff kicked a huge field goal in the final minute of the game to give the Browns a six-point lead. It was a chip-shot 22-yarder but was a pressure field goal nonetheless.
Previous position grades: C+, C+, A+, D+, A+, B-,B, C