You wish the Cleveland Browns would be capable of competing against the top two teams in the AFC North, just as they did with the Cincinnati Bengals the week before. Instead, we saw what Joshua Cribbs referred to as a "talent gap" between the two teams, one that obviously favored the Ravens. When a team runs the ball as well and as often as the Ravens did and you can't manage to do the same offensively, that's not going to boost anyone's morale. Let's get to the full review of the game...
|BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-3)||GAME #12||
CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-8)
WEEK 13 - BALTIMORE RAVENS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
- Goat of the Week: WR Jordan Norwood - After two consecutive weeks of receiving the game ball, Norwood is on the opposite side of the sprectrum for the damage he did to the offense early in the game. For the first few drives, before the Browns inexplicably abandoned the run, the offense was actually showing some signs of life. On the second drive, after a 10-yard catch to move the Browns to their own 38-yard line, Norwood was given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for flipping the ball at a defender (which I sort of disagreed with), basically killing the drive.
On the next drive, facing a 3rd-and-3 at midfield, Norwood caught a pass from Colt McCoy and appeared to have the first down, but he fumbled and the Ravens recovered. Replay review said it was just an incomplete pass. Either way, if Norwood hangs on, the drive continues into Baltimore territory. Two early drive killers by Norwood make him the goat this week.
- Awarding Game Balls: DE Jabaal Sheard - This man just cannot be stopped. I'm not giving him a pass for his run defense on every play, but he offers several high-impact plays per game that can change the complexion of a game. His highlights against Baltimore included a stuff on Ricky Williams for a loss of four yards, forcing Torrey Smith's end-around to be taken for a loss in the backfield, and getting a strip-sack on Joe Flacco that led to a Cleveland field goal (should've led to a touchdown).
- Bending Too Much: There is such a thing as "bend but don't break," but not to the point where your defense is on the field for way too long and can't improve in an area between the first and second half. Baltimore had the ball for 37:34 compared to the Browns having the ball for 22:26. Baltimore ran the ball 55 times for 290 yards. Cleveland ran the ball 17 times for 59 yards.
- Lack of Faith After Hillis? I don't get why Pat Shurmur stopped running the football so early in the game (by that, I'm referring to the early part of the second half). Hillis had 10 carries for 43 yards in the first half. Looking back at the game, the carries basically stopped after Cleveland failed to score a touchdown following Sheard's strip+sack. Was it because Baltimore had taken a 17-3 lead? Or was it because we didn't find we'd have success without Hillis (who had a hip strain supposedly)? I know 14 points is a significant deficit, but we were moving the ball pretty well early on with a healthy mix of runs and passes. If we wanted to get back in the game, with a quarter and a half remaining, Montario Hardesty or Chris Ogbonnaya should have had some more work.
- Stop With the Screens: I normally support screen passes every year for the Browns, but we need to start seeing less of them. I know they are built-in to the West Coast Offense, but how many times are we going to see the plays fail miserably to the point where we're getting 9 yard losses on them? We're better served using Hillis as an actual wide receiver. The 52-yard reception he caught? I keep telling you guys, our running backs did this all of training camp. As unconventional as it sounds, there are some opportunities with those types of plays.
- Rubin Doesn't Close the Gap: I'm don't profess to be a guru at dissecting what went wrong on certain plays, but I wanted to take a look at what happened on Ray Rice's 67-yard run on the first play after Cleveland's field goal. On replay, it appeared that for whatever reason, defensive linemen Ahtyba Rubin was in position to push his man into the spot where Rice was going to run. It either would've tripped Rice up, or it would've led to him staying to the left and he'd be tackled by someone else. Instead, Rubin stopped the push inexplicably, preserving the hole that was there. From there, Rice did the rest. If Cleveland gets a stop there and forces a punt, it'd be a whole different game: the Browns would've gotten the ball back still down one-possession at 10-3.
- The WR Gap: It's hard to keep having faith in a guy like Greg Little when you see his performance against the Ravens. The first opportunity he got led to another dropped pass, and I believe he had two drops for the game. When Little did have a few catches, they had little impact and it still seemed like he was bobbling them the whole way. Joshua Cribbs didn't seem to be used much either, and Mohamed Massaquoi has disappeared from the gameplan. Norwood still had the best game, and I made him the goat!
- Rough Day for Tight Ends: It wasn't a day to remember for tight ends Benjamin Watson and Evan Moore. Watson had a couple of passes get away from him that could've moved the chains, and he was also involved in a play where he didn't look for the ball right before the end of the first half. Moore caught a touchdown late in the game where he was wide open, but when McCoy threw a high (but catchable) rocket for him near the goal line in the third quarter, it went through his hands. Moore was in disbelief as he threw his hands on top of his helmet. I can say stuff to defend why Moore didn't grab the pass, but in a big game like this, you need plays from that who are supposedly your niche players.
- Not Good for Maynard: This was probably Brad Maynard's worst punting game of the season, and he was out there a lot amidst the rain. His problems actually didn't start until the fourth quarter. After what seemed to be an inconsistent snap by new long snapper Christian Yount, Maynard punted from his own 20 and had the ball only go 35 yards out of bounds. His next punt went 40 yards but barely had any hang time and was in the field of play. Ladarius Webb had an easy return touchdown.
- Four Good Defenders: As bad as the defense played, I want to highlight the days of four of the defenders. First, Sheard was solid, as I mentioned already. I thought D'Qwell Jackson continued playing at a high level, finishing with 12 tackles, some plays in the backfield, and a hit on Flacco. Cornerback Joe Haden didn't allow a catch in four attempts, according to Pro Football Focus, and he broke up two end zone passes. Haden also ran down Rice on a couple of his big runs.
Lastly, props to defensive lineman Scott Paxson. He had a tipped pass in the first quarter than almost led to Sheldon Brown getting an interception. And, if the fumble by Williams in the second half would've stood, Paxson was the guy who had been busy ripping and recovering the ball. None of these observations take into account how much impact these guys had at not being able to stop the run.
- Special Teams Tackles: The Browns had two special teams tackles and two assists. Ray Ventrone and Greg Little each had a tackle, and James Dockery and Joshua Cribbs each had an assist.
- Brownies: Even though Colt McCoy threw a terrible interception in the first half, he did a good job making the tackle to save a touchdown...the game would've been much more out of hand if Billy Cundiff had not kept pushing field goals in the first half...I was stunned when Pat Shurmur's challenge on Norwood's fumble went in Cleveland's favor...the Browns converted on only 3-of-14 of their third down plays...there was a stretch where the Ravens ran the ball 20 times out of 22 possible plays...the Browns' trend of playing terrible in the rain seemed to continue.
Up next, the Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday. Usually I am optimistic for an "upset," but right about now I am fearing that Cleveland is going to look totally outclassed by our top two division rivals within a span of five days. Hopefully they can put something together to amend the way they played against Baltimore.