For the past few years, it's been pretty safe to look at the Browns and chalk one up in the win column for the Ravens. Coming off of a bye week and a tough loss to the Steelers, the Ravens should have been hungry. Rather than feasting on the Browns, the Ravens left Cleveland with a loss and a sour taste in their collective mouth.
In the past, the Ravens have been successful by playing mistake-free football. In the Week 9 loss to the Browns, mistakes were plentiful. That gave Jason Campbell and the Browns all the opportunities they needed to put away the Super Bowl Champs for the first time in their last 11 meetings.
One play sums up the kind of error-ridden game the Ravens had:
It wasn't a one-off mistake that gave the Browns a victory and a foothold on second place in the AFC North. The Ravens couldn't run the ball. Aside from Joe Flacco's three carries for 25 yards, the Ravens' running game produced just 30 yards on 18 carries.
The Ravens aerial attack was mediocre, but Flacco was sacked five times. And the Ravens defense couldn't get the Browns off the field.
The Browns do boast one of the NFL's best defenses, ranking fourth in yards allowed per game. The more impressive figure is that the Browns have the best defense in terms of yards per play. A stat the Ravens became all too familiar with as they averaged just 4.1 yards per play against the Browns.
The loss pushes the Ravens to 3-5 and into unfamiliar territory for Flacco and company.
Moving forward, the Ravens must fix the running game and eliminate mistakes. Even then, it might be too late for the Ravens to make the playoffs. While John Harbaugh and his players would never show panic, certain analysts have:
The only positive from Sunday's loss to the Browns was the performance of rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown. Brown hauled in two touchdowns and a two-point conversion, also known as every Ravens point not coming from Justin Tucker's boot.
Bigger than Brown's numbers is the fact that Flacco may have another receiver he can trust. With Anquan Boldin long gone and Dennis Pitta yet to return, the Ravens' quarterback has been in dire need of another receiving option.
Brown has shown he can fill the void.
While the Ravens locker room is focused on taking care of their own business, they will need help in the playoff picture.
With the Bengals, who lead the AFC North, next on the schedule, the Ravens must have a substantial turn around. Perhaps the best news for the Ravens is that Andy Dalton struggled with three interceptions, and the Bengals defense lost Geno Atkins for the season last week according to Joe Reedy, USA Today.
The way Baltimore has looked lately, that won't matter. The Ravens have a long road ahead if they want to defend their Super Bowl title.
A road that might end in the regular season.
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