The Cleveland Browns had not beaten the Baltimore Ravens in 11 games (or 6 years). Sunday they squared off against the defending Super Bowl champs for the second time this year, this time getting the victory at home. Cleveland won an incredibly entertaining game 24-18. The win also snapped a 3-game losing streak this season, as well as moves the Browns just 2 games out of first in the division.
All together it was a fun victory for the fans, the coaches and the players. Beating the Ravens is always great, especially now that the Browns have the 11-game streak off their back. Cleveland can now look forward to getting healthy on the bye week, but before we get there, let's take a look at how Sunday's win came to be.
Cleveland's first series was not good. QB Jason Campbell was sacked by Terrell Suggs to open the game and the Browns would ultimately go three-and-out on their first series. Cleveland's defense would respond (a theme for the entire game) and forced their own three-and-out from the Ravens on their first series.
On the Browns second possession of the game Campbell was able to find Greg Little for 32 yards on a pass that was into double coverage, yet Little came away with it, surprisingly. Campbell also hit Josh Gordon on the drive for 27 yards. The big plays put the Browns inside the Ravens 10-yard line, first and goal. It took the Browns all four plays, but on 4th and 1 at the Ravens 1, Campbell found Davone Bess for the 1-yard touchdown. The Browns would get on the board first, up 7-0.
The Ravens responded on the ensuing possession with a good drive of their own and found themselves nearing the Browns redzone. On 3rd and 6 however, Quentin Groves registered the Browns first sack of the day and forced the Ravens to settle for a Justin Tucker 51-yard field goal, making the score 7-3.
Cleveland would play a good field position battle for the next couple possessions and got the ball back early in the second quarter with good field position at their own 47-yard line. Campbell hit Little on the drive 3 times for 37 yards. The Browns also overcame a Greg Little 15-yard penalty, his second of the game. On 3rd down at the Ravens 20-yard line, Jason Campbell found an open Davone Bess who then put an absolutely filthy juke on Lardarius Webb and Bess was able to get into the endzone for his second score of the game. The Browns would take an early 14-3 lead.
Late in the second half we saw the Browns engineer yet another ‘Browns' way to end a half. After the Browns were forced to punt with a little over a minute to play in the first half, the Ravens would take over at their own 33. Armonty Bryant would sack Joe Flacco on the first play, and a short 3-yard reception by Ray Rice would make it 3rd and 8 with 30 seconds to play. That's when Torrey Smith got his first reception of the game, a catch that would go for 46 yards. I'm not really sure what on earth Tashaun Gipson was doing in coverage, but it was bad. Two plays later Flacco would find Marlon Brown for a 19-yard TD. The Ravens would pull within four, down 14-10.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Browns had the ball at their own 43. They'd then take a delay of game penalty with a timeout in their pocket, moving back 5 yards. Campbell then hit newly signed Armanti Edwards for 10 yards, and then took their timeout at their own 48-yard line. The hail mary to end the half would fall short, but the play calling/clock management at the end of the half was rather suspect. At any rate, the Browns would take a 14-10 lead into halftime.
The Ravens would come out and convert a couple third downs and get within threatening distance. The Browns defense responded again however and T.J. Ward sacked Flacco to push them out of field goal range and forced the Ravens to punt on their opening possession of the half.
Cleveland then caught a huge break on their first possession of the second half. After their drive fell a yard short and elected to punt, Tandon Doss muffed the punt and the Browns came up with the recovery. Two plays later Jason Campbell found Gary Barnidge for the 4-yard touchdown to go up 21-10.
After a quick three-and-out from the Browns, the Ravens got the ball back to start the fourth quarter and got a big punt return from Tandon Doss for 36 yards. Joe Flacco was a perfect 4-for-4 on the drive and found Marlon Brown for a 7-yard TD. The Ravens also went for, and converted on the two-point conversion to cut the Browns lead to a field goal, down 21-18.
Cleveland got the ball back with a little under 7 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The Browns were then facing a 4th and 1 at the Ravens 43. The Browns elected to go for it. Campbell was flushed from the pocket, and in an eerily similar play to last week's critical 4th down play, threw to Davone Bess coming back to the ball. This time Bess came up big and caught the pass, and got just enough to get the first down and extend the drive. The Browns also got big plays from Chris Ogbonnaya with catches of 17 yards and 14 yards on the drive. A horse-collar tackle on the second of the Ogbonnaya catches put the Browns at the Ravens 4-yard line, 1st and goal. Three straight Willis McGahee rushes got them nowhere, and the Browns elected to play it safe and tack on a field goal to go up 24-18 with just 17 seconds left.
Baltimore had very little time left and ultimately Ray Rice tried to house it himself, but fell juuuust short. Cleveland wins 24-18!
- The first thing that jumps out is the rushing statistics, neither team was very good rushing the ball. Cleveland's inability to run the ball is nothing new, but seeing the defense get back to their dominance at the line of scrimmage was great. The Browns held the Ravens to 55 yards rushing on 21 carries (2.6 YPC). When you subtract the Ravens leading rusher, Joe Flacco (ha!), the Browns held the Ravens running backs to 30 yards on 18 carries (1.7 YPC). That's dominance.
- When the Browns are able to get steady QB play, this team is so much fun to watch. When the defense plays like they did on Sunday, the QB play can be marginal and we can still be successful. Jason Campbell was far from marginal, 23-for-35 for 262 yards and 3 TD's. If we get that QB play with this defense the rest of the season, look out.
- Back to the Ravens rushing, Ray Rice was nonexistent Sunday. 11 rushes for 17 yards. Yikes.
- And back to the Browns rushing, perhaps equally nonexistent was Willis McGahee. 21 rushes for 31 yards. I don't understand how Chris Ogbonnaya can't get any rushing attempts in this offense?
- As has been the trend on defense all season, the Browns were able to shut down their opponent's number one wide receiver (for the most part). Torrey Smith had a relatively quiet game, his only noise was the 46-yard catch near the end of the first half. Outside of that, Smith's production was fairly pedestrian.
- While the Browns have shut down opponent's number one receivers, someone else has stepped up in that absence against them though. Sunday that was Marlon Brown who had 5 catches for 54 yards and 2 TD's. We've seen it all season with guys like Brian Hartline, Kris Durham, Dexter McCluster, and now Brown.
First Downs and Conversions:
- Cleveland got more first downs than Baltimore on Sunday, that is just the 4th time this year that they've accomplished that.
- The Browns were aided by four first downs by penalties. Hey, we'll take them!
- Cleveland continues to struggle on third downs, both on offense and on defense. The Ravens were 7-16 (43%) on third downs on Sunday, so the Browns showed some improvement as they gave up 53% last week to the Chiefs.
- On offense the Browns completed just 27% of their third downs. That's not good, and that's about where they were last week. They've got to be better on third down to extend drives.
- Again the Browns went for it twice on 4th down on Sunday. They got both attempts which brought their season total for 4th down conversions to 10 (league best). We OWN 4th down!
Miller's Random Observations:
- Davone Bess - Like most people, I was very critical of Bess' play last week. "Just when I thought you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this... and totally redeem yourself!" Bess had only 3 catches, but they all were pivotal catches. Two of the catches went for scores, one with the aforementioned ankle breakage, and the third being the big 4th down snag late in the game. He responded incredibly well after last weeks atrocity.
- Jason Campbell - I am sure you all had the same cringe I did when you saw Campbell go down. I immediately had visions of sacks, back-handed passes and interceptions running through my mind. While Weeden did come in and look awful, it was only short lived. Campbell returned from injury and continued to play well. As I mentioned above, if Campbell can keep this up, this team is going to be a ton of fun to watch down the stretch.
- Greg Little - I am not going to sing the praises of Greg Little just yet, but his performance Sunday was definitely needed. Little had 7 catches for 122 yards. That's a career high in receptions, and his second highest receiving yards total (he had 131 against Arizona in 2011). It was also his first 100-yard game since that Arizona game. Travis Benjamin was lost for the season last week, leaving a thin wide receiving core, even thinner. If Little can step up as he did Sunday, the stress off guys like Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron will be greatly appreciated. However, the taunting and showboating was back, and I didn't miss that one bit. Grow up.
- Pass Rush - Last week we saw the Browns pass rush return when they sacked Alex Smith 6 times. This week they were able to sack Joe Flacco 5 times. It's great to see them put together back-to-back weeks of a good pass rush. Also, much like Smith last week, Flacco was able to evade some sacks and scramble for positive yardage. So the pass rush was clearly affecting the Ravens offense. It'd be nice to see them stop these scrambles, but at least they're affecting the rhythm of the offense and the pocket.
- Spencer Lanning - Not often do we sing much praise for the punter, but something that might go unnoticed was the punting. It was fairly breezy and a cool November day, so the conditions weren't ideal for the kicking game. Despite that, Lanning punted very well and allowed the Browns to have good field position battles all game. Twice he was able to pin the Ravens inside the 20, and finished the day with 6 punts for an average of 50.5 yards per punt. In tight games like these, field position is huge, and Lanning had a solid day.
This win couldn't have come at a better time for this Browns team. They beat a division rival in the Ravens for the first time in 11 tries, and then get to hit the bye week before traveling to Cincinnati. The Browns can now get healthy and will have two weeks to prepare for the Bengals. With the Browns trailing by two games in the division the game in two weeks will be huge. The Browns dug in on Sunday and toughed out a victory. It'll take another big performance to take down the Bengals, but they've done it once already this year. The Bengals lost to the Dolphins Thursday, and will now travel to Baltimore on Sunday.
With everything that has happened to the Browns this season, a win against the Bengals could be the spark this team needs to bring it all full circle. I'm very excited to see if the Browns can pull off a repeat performance. Heck, I might even head up to Cincinnati to watch it unfold!
ESPN stats were used in the compilation of the charts in this article.