The Cleveland vs. Baltimore contest played Monday Night was probably the biggest game of the year for both clubs.
The Browns sported not only a 9-3-0 record which included a four game winning streak, but playoff implications were on the line. For the Ravens, a team that led the league last season with a sterling 14-2-0 record, the playoffs were getting further and further from view with their own streak - losing four of their last six games.
But Baltimore fans were quick to mention their season opener in which the Ravens thumped the Browns 38-6. Both clubs love to run the ball and are equipped to do so.
In the end, it was a hard-fought contest that went back-and-forth with Baltimore sweeping the series over Cleveland with a 47-42 win.
Who played well for the Browns in this crucial matchup? Who didn’t?
RB Kareem Hunt - After a quiet first half, Hunt was the featured back in the second stanza. On his touchdown catch in the left flats to tie the game at 42 each, he juked nickelback Marlon Humphrey so bad all he could do was turn around and watch the score. Just 33 rushing yards with a 5.5 average but he created excess yardage among his 77 receiving yards - a team best. With the Ravens up by two scores early in the third quarter, Hunt found a seam between guard Wyatt Teller and tackle Jack Conklin for his first touchdown.
C J.C. Tretter and RG Wyatt Teller - The Browns gained yardage on the Ravens by the short passing game. Teller and Tretter held their own. The touchdown run by Nick Chubb in the second quarter was textbook blocking with Tretter turning nose guard Brandon Williams off to the left, Teller blocking down on DE Derek Wolfe then releasing to the second level where he moved LB Patrick Queen out of the picture. Chubb simply followed fullback Andy Janovich’s block on LB Malik Harrison.
DE Olivier Vernon - Two sacks, two tackles for loss, two QB hits, a key pass batted down and three tackles. His second sack of QB Lamar Jackson he had whiffed, spun around and found the signalcaller on the second run. The pass defense was by QB Trace McSorley who had an open receiver late in the fourth quarter. Had issues with containment though.
QB Baker Mayfield - Had some good throws in tight spaces like the sideline pass to David Njoku, but the interception intended for Higgins allowed the Ravens to build a 14-point advantage in the third quarter. Mayfield had his usual overthrows (4) as well and used his six rollouts to gain needed yardage. His tying touchdown scramble late was all him. 343 yards and tossed 47 passes. Was a bit high on the dropped pass by Njoku in the end zone, but the tight end was able to get both hands on the ball.
RB Nick Chubb - What a grand first half. Chubb is very good at waiting for holes to develop and then hitting another gear. His first touchdown was right off Teller with Conklin getting the seal block. Two touchdowns and led the Browns with 82 yards.
DT Sheldon Richardson - Great inside pressure which allowed the Ravens pocket to collapse several times. The first Vernon sack in the second quarter was because Richardson had pushed his man back into Jackson, who then had to move what would become into Vernon’s grasp. With 6:15 left in the fourth quarter, made a key stop on third-and-10 with a stuff of RB J.K. Dobbins. Six tackles, one tackle for loss plus a sack of his own.
Fourth down success - Three fourth-and-four situations, three successful conversions. The final one came in the fourth quarter with the ball on Baltimore’s 21-yard line down 34-20. Ravens CB Marcus Peters clipped feet with Rashard Higgins and fell to which Higgins scored easily. Nice play calling on these crucial decision downs.
Third down conversions - While Cleveland had exceptional success on fourth down attempts, third down was awful: 3-9.
No spy, no containment, no answer to stop Lamar - With a player with the legs such as Jackson, the only way to contain his frequent scrambling abilities is to appoint a “spy” to follow his every move, keep him in the pocket and take him down as soon as he attempts to leave the pocket. However, the Browns were devoid of a spy and Jackson ran roughshod over them for huge gains and multiple first downs. Another issue was the edge containment - or the lack of. Porter Gustin, Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon were either blocked out deep or crashed down inside and a wide open edge could (and did) cause open lanes. Jackson left the pocket 13 times, was sacked three and ran to daylight at will the other attempts. Jackson had 78 yards rushing in the first half alone and led all rushers with 124 yards. You have to install a spy.
Pass protection - Mayfield had to improvise because the pocket just wasn’t stable and collapsed 12 times. When he was able to hold position, he found his receivers. Jedrick Wills had problems with Justin Ellis to where the offense had to have tight end Harrison Bryant line up on his side and chip Ellis. Mayfield wasn’t sacked, but only because he left the pocket and either found a passing lane or threw the ball away.
M.J. Stewart, Jr. - The cornerback was the hero in the Tennessee Titans game with a pick. Against the Ravens he had too many issues to count. A third-and-seven pass interference ball gave Baltimore a 39-yard gain plus the first down deep and then subsequently scored their first touchdown. With 1:04 ticks left in the game and needing to increase field position, Stewart missed the pass intended for tight end Mark Andrews who gained 14-yards. The very next play Stewart misjudged the pass to Andrews who gained 14 to Cleveland’s 47-yard line. Ten yards later, the winning field goal was kicked.
Milk Bones - chewy goodness until that one chips a tooth
Special Teams - K Cody Parkey missed a crucial 39-yard field goal which would have made it 10-7 Browns and later missed an extra point. That was four points left off the board. Kickoff coverage was excellent with Stephen Carlson, Sheldrick Redwine, Andy Janovich and Jovante Moffatt in coverage. Punter Jamie Gillan shanked a kick that only went 35-yards just before the half and set up Baltimore on their own 44-yard line. Four plays later, the Ravens scored a touchdown and went up 21-14. Delay of game penalty on the PAT late in the game was a head scratcher.
WR Rashard Higgins - Had two fumbles early but lost neither. Had a drop with 12:45 left in the second quarter on Cleveland’s 44 which would have been a first down. With 11 seconds left in the first half, Mayfield hit Hunt in the right flat. Teller and Tretter were already moving ahead of the play with Conklin engaged. It was pure green grass in front of Hunt. All Higgins had to do was block his man CB Marcus Peters, which he didn’t. Peters made the open-field tackle for a one-yard gain instead of a huge payout and maybe a score. But Higgins played well in the second half and hauled in two key first downs on the Browns second to last touchdown drive and scored a touchdown.
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones - The rookie looks better and better each game. Got open on yet another 30-yard long pass and netted 74-yards for the game. Alert play on the tip for the two-point conversion. Still cannot produce any decent numbers in the kicking game.
Do you think the Browns defense should have employed a "spy" whose sole job is to follow and contain Lamar Jackson?
This poll is closed
That makes it 10 on 11, so no