The television networks were all abuzz about this divisional matchup with the Cleveland Browns on the road against the Baltimore Ravens. There was no way the schedule-makers could have predicted a 5-3-0 Cleveland club going against the division-leading 7-2-0 Ravens midway through the season.
The expectations going into the season was that the Browns’ offense would be the pinnacle of the club, but so far the defense is who has shined each game. Before kickoff, Baltimore was ranked as the #6 best passing team in the league whereas Cleveland’s defense was the Number 1 ranked pass defense. That alone would be worth a ticket.
For the third week in a row, the Browns’ passing attack was ranked dead last despite a good game last week against the Arizona Cardinals and the return of QB Deshaun Watson. Unfortunately for the Browns, Baltimore’s pass defense is really good with a ranking of Number 4 in the league this year. This made be a tough matchup for Cleveland’s offense to be able to find some open receivers not to mention the patch job on the Browns offensive line would certainly pose a huge problem for the Ravens vaulted pass rush.
All the while, the sting of being dominated 28-3 at home in their first game remained.
At the final gun, the Ravens had several large leads and then could not stop a last-minute Cleveland drive to lose 33-31. This was a statement win for the Browns.
So, how did the Browns do? Who played well, and who didn’t?
No quit - On the second play, the Ravens were up 7-0 on a pick-six. On the next possession, it was now 14-0 and then 17-3. In fact, the Ravens’ 17 points were the most they scored in the first quarter since 2019. With 11:34 remaining in the fourth quarter, Baltimore was up 31-17 and seemed to have the game under control. Yet, the Browns did not succumb. And this time, it wasn’t just the defense who made important plays down the stretch. The offense did its part and turned third downs into another set of downs when they needed it. The Ravens and Chiefs were assumed to be penciled into the AFC Championship Game, but now Cleveland’s eraser may have changed that.
Cleveland Browns win probability chart from today. What an unbelievable win. pic.twitter.com/yGWUsKmoS6— Cody Suek (@CodySuek) November 12, 2023
K Dustin Hopkins - Missed his very first PAT of the year late in the game, but in the end that did not matter. Hit on field goals of 36, 28, and 23 yards, plus the game-winner of 40 yards. Clutch. Very clutch. Can we just go ahead and award Hopkins with the team’s Most Valuable Offensive Player for the year? Browns scored 33 points of which Hopkins contributed 13. Only two of his kickoffs were brought out with most being in the minus-7 area. Incredible game for Mr. Clutch.
RB Jerome Ford - All game long, it was Ford who pushed and plowed for positive yardage. Early in the game he converted on a second-and-two despite being hit one yard deep in the backfield. With 14:05 left in the second quarter, Ford went up between C Ethan Pocic and LG Joel Bitonio and gained a key first down. Four minutes later, he found a gap beside RG Wyatt Teller who had moved DT Broderick Washington and busted out for 13 yards as WR James Proche provided downfield blocking. Eight yards were after contact. Ford was crucial in the game’s final two drives. He took a short pass and rambled to the Ravens 31 which set up the offense. With Cleveland getting the ball with just 4:55 left in the game and down by one, it was Ford that converted the third-and-two just after the two-minute warning. Then at Baltimore’s 39, he ripped off 12 yards. Okay, he went for four yards and was bulldozed by the Browns’ entire offensive line for an additional eight. Finished with 17 carries for 107 yards with an exceptional 6.3 yards per carry average.
Defense stopping third downs - Baltimore was able to move the ball pretty much in the first half, but their Achilles heel was the inability to convert third downs as they went 0-5. The second half wasn’t much better as the Ravens did convert three, but two of those were via stupid penalties. Baltimore finished the game going 3-11.
WR Amari Cooper - Other than Hopkins, the only other viable offensive threat all game was Cooper. He had a very vanilla first half but was able to be wide open at the 12 and then drive to the Ravens’ six-yard line in the second quarter. A field goal was that result. With 2:57 left in the third quarter, Coop began to crank out production when he snagged a six-yard pass to the three-yard line. On the next play, RB Kareem Hunt scored six which became eight. Facing a second-and-15 with just over 11 minutes left in the game, QB Deshaun Watson hit Cooper deep left for 23 yards which set Cleveland up for business at Baltimore’s 29. Three plays later the Browns scored another touchdown which made a 31-30 score. But his most clutch catch as Cleveland was trying to get into field goal range and milk the clock at the same time on that last drive. On a second-and-19 after Watson was sacked, Cooper beat CB Rock Ya-Sin over the middle and then ran for 17 yards unmolested to their own 39-yard line. Nine targets, six catches, 98 yards, and a 16.3 yards per catch average.
Containing Lamar Jackson - This dude has punished the Browns for years with his legs. Today, he did leave the pocket but gained very little. Finished with eight scrambles for 41 yards with his longest run only nine yards.
Difference in the game - 1) In the first half, Baltimore did what they wanted on offense and drove to the 37 and attempted a 55-yard field goal. Only DT Jordan Elliott’s big paw blocked the kick which would prove crucial on the final drive to get into field goal position or have to score a touchdown, 2) First-and-10 with 5:01 left in the game, TE David Njoku caught a short pass over the middle and then was hit early yet managed to ramble for nine yards and move the chains, 3) on the following play, RB Kareem Hunt did the same via determination and will in getting 13 yards with most after contact, and 4) the Greg Newsome pick six.
Punt and kickoff coverage - For the third game in a row, the opposing team did nothing with any kick all game. Defenders Harrison Bryant, Mike Ford, Charley Hughlett, D’Anthony Bell, Grant Delpit, Pierre Strong, and Anthony Walker were all over the return man. Ravens averaged six yards per punt and 15 yards per kickoff.
CB Greg Newsome - Had an average day back in the defensive backfield, but his pick-six off the batted hand of DE Ogbo Okoronkwo was being in the right place. What was impressive was the 34-yard return for the score that made the Ravens suddenly take notice that the Browns just might come back and win this ballgame. Just in: they did.
Stupid penalties - It was unbelievable how many times the Browns’ defense would stop the Ravens on key third down plays, only to have yellow laundry thrown on some just plain dumb calls. On the Browns’ final drive taking the ball with 4:55 left in the game, RT James Hudson begins early and so now it is first-and-15 needing to drive the field. JOK had a holding call on his man that was nowhere in the play when S Rodney McLeod intercepted the ball in the end zone which negated the stop. CB M.J. Emerson had a hold on a key third-down play that gave the Ravens a new set of downs. S Juan Thornhill’s holding call after a third down stop was an absolutely horrible call. Thorny had placed his hand on his man, but never grabbed nor tugged yet was the recipient of the bad call. With 4:38 in the second quarter facing a third-and-seven, 12 men on the field gave the Ravens a short spot.
PR James Proche - As a return man, you have one job, and one job only: Catch the damn ball and get as much as you can. Only in his second game with Cleveland, his fumble of a punt gave Baltimore the ball at the 12 which turned into seven. This one mistake forced Cleveland to work harder than it should have.
LT Geron Christian and RT James Hudson - Neither player was up to keeping the pass rush down for most of the game. The Ravens had four sacks of which two were attributed to these men. Hudson had no answer for former Browns DE Jadeveon Clowney who had two sacks, two QB hits, two tackles for loss, and six tackles. Christian had no chance against Odale Oweh who had a key sack with 1:17 left in the first half. Yes, one is a backup while the other is a practice squad player.
Milk Bones – When you realize your favorite machine at the gym is the vending machine
CB Mike Ford - The hit on Lamar Jackson that sent the Ravens signal-caller flying was a sight to see. Then on the next play, he picked Jackson off with a decent return. It did not add to the Browns scoreboard, but it certainly stopped Baltimore which had a good drive going. Ford had a penalty with allowed the Ravens to keep going after being stopped on third down. Ford’s man Odell Beckham, Jr. had great position and then sprinted untouched for the third-quarter touchdown.
CB M.J. Emerson - Had a tackling issue today when he is usually a great tackler. Every time he was tasked with covering WR Zay Flowers, the receiver would not only catch the pass but made good yardage. Had the holding call that negated a key third-down stop. Led all tacklers with eight total tackles.
Browns just went into Baltimore against arguably the best team in football - went down 14 early and clawed their way back without half their secondary and both their tackles WITH a hobbled Deshaun Watson.— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) November 12, 2023
Kevin Stefanski is propelling into the COTY conversation
QB Deshaun Watson - Proved to be a warrior in this game, but began timid and without much timing. He tossed two first-half passes into the turf and with 10:29 left in the first half completely missed WR Cedric Tillman who was open. Made a great scramble in the third quarter on a third-and-10 but began his slide too early and missed the first down by a single yard. Was able to hit Cooper on several key plays and once on a scramble was able to hold the linebacker when it appeared he was about to run then tossed a short pass to WR Elijah Moore for a touchdown. His scramble with 1:24 left in the game for 16 yards got the Browns in definite field goal range for Hopkins to kick the go-ahead points. Watson did a great job on the last drive, became injured, and remained in the game when it counted. He orchestrated a 12-play 58-yard drive that chewed up the remaining 4:55 off the clock and did what Browns fans had been waiting to see. Had 20 completions on 34 throws for 213 yards, was sacked four times, harassed for most of the game, one touchdown, one pick, and a QB rating of 74.8.
LB Sione Takitaki - Was active all game. Nailed RB Keaton Mitchell midway in the first quarter on an attempted third down play. With 5:40 left in the half, Takitaki tackled RB Gus Edwards as a big hole opened for minimal gain.
DE Myles Garrett - Barely heard his name in the first two quarters, but came alive in the second half. Just before the fourth quarter, Delpit blitzed which forced Jackson to move up in the pocket and into the waiting arms of Garrett. Then on the very next play, Garrett beat OT Ronnie Stanley as he made an inside move and planted Jackson. He made a key tackle early in the fourth quarter on a first-and-goal on Jackson’s attempted scramble.
TE David Njoku - Was not used much in the first half at all. He even had a drop as the first quarter was winding down that would have converted a second down into a new set of downs. Had the key third-and-11 catch in the third stanza and two plays later went for nine yards with seven after contact. His 23-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter was all determination and grit. Had several key blocks on Ford runs. Finished with six catches for 58 yards and bailed out a stagnant offense.
Did you think the game was over when the Ravens were up 31-17 with 11:34 left in the game?
This poll is closed
My thinking was "Browns is the Browns"
I still had hope
I stopped watching the game at that point
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