Aside from maybe the Bills game, this was the first contest in which the offense, defense, and special teams units each played collectively well, and when one of the units struggled, the other unit picked them up. Let's get to my complete game review to see all of the positives and negatives.
WEEK 9 - BALTIMORE RAVENS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
- Awarding the Game Ball: QB Jason Campbell - This feels like bizarro world; when Campbell was announced the starter a few weeks ago, I thought we would be getting a dull quarterback who I really wouldn't find myself having much faith in. Instead, through two games, we arguably have the most competent-looking quarterback play since 1999. Campbell gutted this game out with bruised ribs and once again added the right combination of accuracy, mobility, and the ability to make quick decisions.
- Goat of the Game: S Tashaun Gipson - Based on the fact that Gipson didn't register any tackles, I speculated that he may have been playing the single-high safety role most of the game, something which rufio agreed with from his initial viewing. Gipson appeared to make the biggest blunder of the game, though, when he blew a coverage at the end of the first half to keep the Ravens in the ball game the rest of the way. I'll get to that play later.
- First Big Play to Greg Little: WR Greg Little had a big day, notching 7 catches for 122 yards. He was flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but also drew one on a Raven, so he only netted a loss of 15 yards in that department.
On the Browns' second possession of the game, their first big play of the night came on a 32-yard hookup between QB Jason Campbell and Little. Little starts as the receiver at the bottom of the screen and will run a 10-yard comeback route.
TE Jordan Cameron is running a route up the seam. At first, the linebacker in coverage is going with him, but then he releases him. Campbell doesn't seem aware of this, so as he goes for his intended target (Little), there are two defenders converging on him.
When you look at the replay, it's surprising that this pass was not intercepted or at least broken up. I don't know if the linebacker just never saw the ball, or simply isn't very athletic.
Either way, Little fights for the ball and wins the battle. The two Ravens defenders collide with each other, and Little picks up about 20 more yards after the catch to get the offense into Baltimore territory.
- No Run Game, No Problem: Two plays later, the Browns are going to get another big pass play, this time a 27-yard connection between QB Jason Campbell and WR Josh Gordon.
The Browns are going to run a playaction fake and then send off two receivers with max protection. Gordon, at the bottom of the screen, will be the guy Campbell goes to on the post route.
The Browns might have been horribly ineffective at running the ball during the game, but that doesn't mean they should stop faking the run. As you can see it, Baltimore's defense is sucked up big time, leaving just a single-high safety in coverage in the middle of the field, and plenty of space for Gordon and Little to work with.
As an added bonus, there isn't even a threat of a pass rush on Campbell, who fires the ball toward Gordon quickly for another first down.
- Goal Line TD to Bess: With two big plays on the drive already, it's unfortunate that the offense could not get the ball in the end zone prior to a 4th-and-1 situation. Rob Chudzinski stayed aggressive and let his offense go for it early in the game, though, passing up a field goal opportunity.
The play above is different as a whole than what Cleveland has run before, but the patterns at the bottom of the screen are pretty typical from what we've seen from Chudzinski in the red zone thus far. In fact, a few weeks ago against the Lions, WR Greg Little scored on a route similar to the one that WR Davone Bess is running above.
The heat comes at Campbell and the snap isn't the greatest, so he has to throw a fast lob to where Bess is heading. As you can see above, it's a perfect throw -- away from the defender covering him, and then Bess does a nice job hanging on to the pass despite a hard hit from the other defender.
- Ward Continues With the Run Blitzing: For the second straight week, I really liked the game that S T.J. Ward has. Cleveland held RB Ray Rice to minimal yardage (11 carries for 17 yards), and one of the reasons is because you have a safety like Ward who can stop running plays for a loss.
Here is where Ward starts off on this 1st-and-10 play in the first quarter. The Ravens are going to pitch the ball to Rice, going toward the bottom of the screen.
The Ravens try to get a blocker on Ward, but he is aggressive and dives below the block.
Ward does enough to trip up Rice for a loss of two yards.
- Varying the Third Down Defense: Even though the Browns have some speed rushers, one of the ways opposing quarterbacks have burned them is by scrambling up the middle when the pressure comes from the outside.
With that in mind, it's good to see the Browns vary their rush at times. This is a 3rd-and-12 situation the Ravens are facing early in the second quarter.
At first, it looks like QB Joe Flacco has a lot of room to step up in the pocket. In reality, OLB Paul Kruger and another lineman are about to make moves to get back to the inside. Flacco goes from being comfortable...
...to being rattled. You can't tell from the still shot, but Flacco was about to throw the ball to the crossing receiver on the right of the screen. He clutches when Kruger jumps, though, and when he throws the pass eventually, it is inaccurate and falls incomplete.
- Leaving Little Uncovered: With the Browns up 7-3 in the second quarter, they faced a 1st-and-10 situation from the Ravens' 27 yard line.
WR Greg Little is the receiver to QB Jason Campbell's right. WR Josh Gordon is at the bottom of the screen, and TE Jordan Cameron is to Campbell's left. Little is the guy to watch -- he's going to run a simple crossing route.
Here is the progression of the play. As you can see from the circles I've drawn, no one is really going to follow Little as he crosses the field.
Gordon and Cameron both get double-teamed deep. Were one of the defenders in the cyan circles responsible for Little? Maybe -- or, they could've been staying in their positions to cover the other cyan circles, Gary Barnidge and our running back, in the event they released. Either way, Little was uncovered and picked up 15 yards and a first down (before losing the 15 yards on a taunting flag).
- Double Ankle-Breaker to Bess: Little's second penalty didn't end up hurting the Browns, as they netted their second touchdown of the half a few plays later.
Facing a 3rd-and-3, QB Jason Campbell connected with WR Davone Bess for a 20-yard catch-and-run touchdown. A lot of people were in awe of Bess' ankle-breaking shake of CB Lardarius Webb, but he actually broke the ankles of two players.
As you can see, Bess' fake in and then out makes the initial player in coverage fall flat to the ground. Campbell delivers the pass, and then the arrows show how the rest of the play unfolded. Bess went above and beyond redemption in this game, folks.
- Ravens Defend Cameron Well: This was the worst statistical day of the season for TE Jordan Cameron, but it wasn't due to a lack of trying. The Ravens simply covered Cameron well, and on five targets, he only came away with one catch.
This is a 3rd-and-1 situation. At this point, it looks like LB Josh Bynes is stumbing and that QB Jason Campbell will be able to sneak a pass in to Cameron.
Bynes instinctively turns right into Cameron's route though, and is able to knock the pass away. I like the anticipation by Campbell; more times than not, a linebacker probably doesn't get their head around or guess correctly like Bynes did.
- Flacco Being Flacco: ...and I say that in a bad way.
This is what QB Joe Flacco saw when he heaved a pass deep to the middle of the field against the Browns' defense. This was a 2nd-and-10 play, too, so it's not like he was taking a chance on 3rd down when it might make a little sense.
There are three defensive backs compared to only two receivers -- this has very little chance of success, and it results in an interception by CB Joe Haden. This is a play I've come to expect from Flacco, though, which adds to the hilarity of the massive contract he received this offseason.
- Gipson Strays From the Middle: The Browns were dominating the first half on both sides of the ball. Heck, there were 0:30 left in the half, and things were looking great for Cleveland: Baltimore was losing 14-3, and they were facing a 3rd-and-8. What could possibly go wrong?
Inexplicably, the Browns gave up their biggest offensive play of the year, a 46-yard catch-and-run to WR Torrey Smith. What happened? I place the blame on S Tashaun Gipson, who I named the goat and have circled in cyan above.
Based on the way CB Joe Haden is playing, he is cutting off Smith's outside, taking away an out route to Smith. The assumption would be that Gipson stays in his single-high safety position like he's been doing all game. Instead, Gipson is sprinting to the sideline as if he knows this will be a flag route, even though Flacco really isn't even doing anything deceptive.
When Haden releases Smith, there is nobody there. If the pass hadn't been so poorly underthrown, Smith would've scored on this play easily.
- Secondary Miscommunication...Again: Last week against the Chiefs, we saw the Browns' secondary have a miscommunication as a receiver was allowed to go uncovered into the end zone for a touchdown. The same thing happened this week, just before the end of the first half.
WR Marlon Brown is the guy who is going to be wide open on the out route in the magenta circle. The only person who (late) tries to cover him is a linebacker, which isn't quite what we drew up. CB Buster Skrine, who lines up over Brown initially, will pass Brown off to the outside, taking the tight end in the flat (lime circles).
CB Chris Owens starts off on the outside receiver at the bottom. It seems like maybe he was supposed to pass the receiver off to the safety, and play zone over to where Brown is going. Owens follows his receiver, though, and we have a double team on the post route (cyan circles).
There is the further progression of what I described above. Just like that, we only had a 14-10 lead.
- Ward's Momentum-Shifting Blitz: Defensive coordinator Ray Horton picked a hell of a time to bust out one of the few (if not only) delay blitzes I've seen from S T.J. Ward this season. After seizing the momentum at the end of the first half, Baltimore got the ball first in the third quarter and were moving the chains: they had run 12 plays on the drive, eating up 6:00 of clock.
Then, the Ravens faced a 3rd-and-15 from the 37 yard line. K Justin Tucker might have been able to make a field goal from there; or, they may have gotten closer for Tucker to cut the Browns' lead to 14-13. Instead, Cleveland brought a blitz from the safety position, and you can see how it'll open up as the running back doesn't see it developing quick enough.
LB D'Qwell Jackson gets picked up, but Ward will shoot through and the coverage downfield is solid, so Baltimore is taken out of field goal range and has to punt.
- Muffed Punt: The Browns moved the ball to midfield on their next possession, but opted to punt on a 4th-and-1. That's when they saw shades of last week -- when WR Davone Bess muffed a punt -- except this time, it was the Ravens' Tandon Doss with the muff.
Doss muffs the punt, and OLB Barkevious Mingo dives to the side of him, but can't get to the ball. CB Johnson Bademosi is pulling Doss' body away from the ball, meaning he doesn't have enough strength to re-recover the muff. You can also see LB Eric Martin (arrow) in the background.
Martin dives on the pule and the football falls right into his lap for the recovery. Just like that, the Browns were back in business.
- Wide Open TD to Gary Barnidge: Facing a 2nd-and-3 from the 4 yard line, QB Jason Campbell connected with TE Gary Barnidge for his third touchdown pass of the game.
The Browns started off with Barnidge at the bottom of the screen, but motioned him to be the closest receiver to Campbell in the trips formation at the bottom. The Ravens don't have anyone set up to cover Barnidge, so someone blew an assignment again.
There he is -- Barnidge, wide open, for his first touchdown of the season, giving Cleveland a 21-10 lead. WR Greg Little, who was running a crossing route, also appeared to be coming open on the left side of the field.
- Flacco Finds Marlon Brown Again: After the Browns went three-and-out on their next possession, the Ravens faced a short field to start the fourth quarter, due to a 36-yard punt return by WR Tandon Doss.
On a 1st-and-goal from the 7 yard line, WR Marlon Brown, who is in the slot, runs a simple out route. CB Buster Skrine has a lot of responsibility -- Brown and the middle of the field -- because Cleveland will bring a seven-man blitz here.
CB Joe Haden, on the outside receiver at the top of the screen, takes a peak and sees Flacco throwing to the underneath receiver. Haden comes off of his guy, so if Flacco tried to lead Brown, Haden might have had a pick six on this type of play. Instead, Flacco actually fires the ball behind Brown on a dart, preventing Haden from having any chance of making a play. That made it a 21-18 game (after the Ravens converted a two-point conversion to Brown).
- Third Big Play to Little Shifts Field: Facing a 3rd-and-10 on their next possession, the Browns needed a first down to re-take the advantage in the game of field position.
Cleveland converted with the final big play of the game for WR Greg Little on a 46-yard catch-and-run. Little starts off as the middle of three receivers at the bottom of the screen. WR Davone Bess is at the bottom of the screen, running an in-and-out route. TE Jordan Cameron is next to Little, and they are mirroring each others routes.
Little and Campbell find the soft spot in the zone...
...and Campbell delivers a perfect pass to Little, who catches this and then runs upfield. As you can see, Cameron is already getting ready to help with a block. Cleveland later opted for a pooch punt rather than a 52-yard field goal; unfortunately, the punt went for a touchback.
- Flacco's Last Opportunity: The last opportunity for QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens' offense basically came with seven minutes left in the game. The Ravens had converted a 4th-and-1 on the drive, but a few plays later, they face a 3rd-and-3.
Here is how the Browns line up pre-snap. Both inside linebackers are going to blitz.
Although the Ravens have enough blockers to handle a six-man blitz, the running back can't get over to LB D'Qwell Jackson quick enough, and that forces Flacco to get off of his spot and start dancing around the pocket too much.
Flacco does appear (earlier than this screenshot) to have a chance to run upfield for a first down, but he's still looking for receivers. As he moves around the pocket, though, OLB Jabaal Sheard gets to him. With it being a 4th-and-4 near midfield and "plenty of time" left to play, Baltimore probably makes the right decision to punt. If they pin us back, they can get the ball back with good field position.
The problem? Punter Sam Koch shanks it -- living up to his pre-game scouting report. The punt goes 25 yards, and Cleveland starts their drive at the 29 yard line.
- Campbell Scrambles: QB Jason Campbell was particularly clutch on the final drive of the game. Here is one of his plays -- a scramble on 3rd-and-3 that goes for 12 yards.
Campbell feels the pressure as he gets into his dropback and takes off. This is the luxury of having a quarterback with some mobility, something that's a necessity in today's NFL unless you have a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.
- Bess' Redemption Completed: Still, the Browns faced a decision on a 4th-and-1 play from the 43 yard line: punt it, or go for it? I thought there was no chance we would go for it; I thought we were just trying to draw Baltimore offsides. With 0:10 left on the play clock, C Alex Mack snapped the ball.
The intended receiver is RB Fozzy Whittaker for a quick hitter in the flat. The Ravens immediately cover it, though, so QB Jason Campbell doesn't throw it. With that in mind, let's look at where WR Davone Bess, the eventual receiver, is going (he is running a comeback at the top of the screen).
When Bess turns around from his comeback route, this is what he sees: deja vu, as Campbell is rolling to the right sideline. You can see just how far Campbell is from the first down market, despite this being a 4th-and-1. Running is not a viable option for Campbell.
Campbell makes another great throw, considering he has two defenders on him and is throwing across his body. Bess comes through this week with a diving reception, and that pumps up head coach Rob Chudzinski as his offense...
...moves the chains!
- The Right Way to Flip: Although Cleveland had the game pretty much in the bag, it wasn't completely sealed yet. I thought they would play it safe and keep running the ball so that Baltimore would burn all of their timeouts. Instead, they stayed aggressive and went for a pass play on 2nd-and-13 from the 23 yard line, their first play out of the two-minute warning.
The Browns have trip receivers at the top, and all of those receivers are staying on the right side of the field.
QB Jason Campbell pump fakes twice to the receiver I circled, but the receiver doesn't even budge an inch either time. After the second pump fake, Campbell feels the pressure coming from his right and goes toward the left in desperation. That is where RB Chris Ogbonnaya, who had no one to block on his blitz pickup, leaks out into the open field.
Now that's how you execute the flip pass. Ogbonnaya's catch-and-run picks up a first down. It should have allowed us to do kneel downs for the rest of the game, but a horse collar penalty on the Ravens actually stops the clock, working in their favor. No disaster happens, though -- Billy Cundiff kicks a short field goal to go up 24-18, and the defense closes it out after a short dumpoff to Ray Rice sees the clocks hit 0:00.
Also, OG Shawn Lauvao is pumped.
- Final Assessments: Major props go to WR Greg Little and WR Davone Bess, each of who stepped up to the challenge and had huge games. When WR Josh Gordon and TE Jordan Cameron command the type of attention that they do, it opens up a lot of one-on-one opportunities for Little and Bess, and we need them to come through every time. When they do, our passing game looks solid.
The running game still leaves a lot to be desired. RB Willis McGahee only averaged 1.5 yards per carry, and he fumbled a carry. Thankfully, it didn't result in any points for the Ravens, but clearly, a change is needed at the position. Chudzinski already indicated that RB Chris Ogbonnaya might become the new starting running back after the bye.
The defense played outstanding. I have been wanting to see more blitzes on downs other than third down, and I saw it. I have wanted to see more aggressive blitzing on third downs too, and we saw it. Defenders closed better. The only blemish came before the end of the first half. Special teams also came through with a big fumble recovery.
- Special Teams Tackles: There were five special teams tackles by the Browns with one each for RB Chris Ogbonnaya, DE Armonty Bryant, CB Chris Owens, DB Jordan Poyer, and LS Christian Yount. LB Eric Martin recovered the fumble on the muffed punt.
- Snap Counts on Offense & Defense: If you missed them, here are the links to our snap count trackers for offense (link) and defense (link). On offense, WR Josh Gordon played every snap on offense, and WR Armanti Edwards had a couple of plays. On defense, DE Armonty Bryant saw a season high in playing time, DE Billy Winn returned, and the percentages indicated that Cleveland played a lot of nickel defense.
- Brownies: Although I'd have liked WR Greg Little to react differently when he drew two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, I don't have a big problem or anything with what he did. ... TE MarQueis Gray had a read-option play that was stuffed for a gain of just one yard. ... WR Armanti Edwards returned punts when we had the opposition backed up, but WR Davone Bess returned them when we needed a "fair catch guy" near our own end zone. ... The Ravens were 7-of-16 (44%) on third down, while Cleveland was only 4-of-15 (27%) on third down.
Up next, the Browns will rest as they are on the bye. After the bye, they face another big division game as they will try to sweep the Bengals in Cincinnati.