Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens: Obvservations and Analysis
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The Ravens beat the Browns 24-17 in a game that seemed much harder than it should have, primarily due to the outstanding performance of Peyton Hillis and the Browns offensive line.
Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin seemed to hit their groove, with three TD connections. Flacco appeared to regain his poise; while it was against the mediocre defense of the Browns, he did face some aggressive blitzing and still came away with 262 yards in the air and three TDs with no interceptions.
The running game looked fantastic, with Ray Rice going 80 yards on 15 carries until he left the game with a knee sprain. Willis McGahee stepped in with another 29 yards.
The offense was much improved over the last two weeks (again, even in light of the opponent, this is still a divisional game). They still need to improve third down conversions, and stop leaving themselves in third and long situations.
I would also like to see them continue to integrate the running attack to increase time of possession and wear down the opposing offense. The weapons are there.
Not every game is going to be a lights out defensive performance, and this certainly wasn't a lights out performance by the Ravens.
They did still only allow 17 points, keeping their average over three games to just over 12 points per game.
They finally allowed a touchdown (two), and were run over by the Browns offensive line and running back Peyton Hillis.
The Ravens have shown similar letdowns before when facing a very big physical downhill back (Brandon Jacobs comes to mind). What's reassuring with this squad is when one aspect isn't great, the rest step up.
The secondary played well, although the Browns didn't really test them much.
All in all, still a solid game from the defense against a tough match up for them and to give credit where it's due, Hillis is a heck of a tough player with size and speed that's difficult for any LB group to handle.
An uneventful special teams day is a good day.
It was good to see fewer mistakes in the return game, although Chris Carr ran backwards after fielding a punt late in the game.
Billy Cundiff missed a pretty important FG try, but it was on the long side, and the Ravens had an opportunity to get him closer.
The return coverage group held Cribbs to no yards on punt returns, a solid showing.
Cundiff continues to impress with his strength on kickoffs.
Until this week, it's been a relief to have penalties not be a factor in the Ravens' performance.
This week, there was a bit of a letdown in discipline.
Derrick Mason was flagged for a remarkably stupid delay of game after he threw the ball in frustration after a dropped pass, Michael Oher was flagged for a 15 yard unnecessary roughness during a scrum that should have resulted in offsetting penalties, and Tom Zbikowski was flagged for a late hit out of bounds that was another sign of a dumb penalty born of frustration.
All in all, Ravens fans should be happy with Sunday's performance: A solid outing from the offense that made up for a bit of a defensive letdown is a positive sign. There were no turnovers, and while there were a few mistakes resulting in penalties, there weren't any big costly mistakes.
They faced a beast of a running back in Peyton Hillis, but didn't allow the Browns to get any passing attack going.
They do still need to improve if they are going to travel to the Steelers and come away with a win.
You can read more from Paul on his blog paulstagg.com
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