Sunday, November 2, 2008

Postgame Report Card: Ravens 37, Browns 27

The word of the game is…comeback. After being up 10-0, the Browns went on a 27-3 tear to take what looked like a dominating 14-point lead. But the Ravens locked down their defense and revved up the offense, scoring 24 unanswered points and came away from Cleveland with a 37-27 victory. The Ravens improve to 5-3 and are currently a half-game back of Pittsburgh in the AFC North, while the Browns fall to 3-5.

This win means so much to the Ravens. Cleveland is one of the worst places to play for the men in purple. Browns fans have never gotten over the move of the Browns by Art Modell, and because of that the fans put that much more into their taunts and cheering. The city has not had a playoff win with the new franchise, adding to the frustration. And the Ravens just seem to not play well there. But despite all those factors plus being down 14 late in the third quarter, the Ravens rallied to win.

Offense – Overall Grade: B+
Quarterbacks: B+
Joe Flacco had a solid day, throwing 248 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. He had a few very close throws that could have been problematic, but when the Ravens needed moving and scores, Flacco was at his best. The grade is a little lower with Troy Smith, due to the confusion with his entrances. But overall, Flacco may have had his best day as a quarterback.
Running Backs: A-
Ray Rice was wonderful in place of the injured Willis McGahee, running for 154 yards on 21 carries, the big one going for 60 yards. Moreover, he should some impressive jukes and side-steps when running. His strength has always been his speed, but he showed some great technique today. LeRon McClain's stats, 34 yards and a TD on 14 carries, don't reflect his job, which mainly was going for those short yardage situations, but he did fail to get anything done on a few plays near the goal line. But Rice was the absolute star today.
Wide Receivers: A-
Derrick Mason continues to be Flacco's favorite and most reliable target, getting nine receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown was tremendous, catching the ball and spinning to avoid his defender to easily score. And welcome to the offense Mark Clayton, who had four catches for 87 yards and a score; could have been two if he catches a long one to the end zone, but he had a tremendous day. With Demetrious Williams out for the year with injury, Flacco now getting the ball to Clayton gives him another big threat and spreads out the secondary.
Tight Ends: D
Todd Heap is having a very disappointing year. Today, no catches and two false starts. Just a bad, bad day for him.
Offensive Line: B
For a while, it seemed as if the line were showing the same problems they always were. Flacco was getting hurried, including getting sacked twice, and a lot of confusion on certain plays. But again, once the times got tough, the line stepped up, and protected Flacco and Rice while the scoring machine began. All in all, the line did its job when the Ravens needed them most.

Defense - Overall Grade: B-
Defensive Line: A-

This unit had a strong game, and was occasionally dominant. Ngata and Bannan shut down Jamal Lewis at the line of scrimmage, and Trevor Pryce had his finest game this season, accounting for a sack along with a few key quarterback pressures. Ngata’s pass rush on the Browns’ final offensive play was the key to Suggs’ interception. The line’s grade is docked, however, by the fact that there was a significant stretch through the second and third quarters that this group gave Anderson far too much time.
Linebackers: B+
The running game was wholly shut down, and the linebackers played an equal part to the line in making that happen. The linebackers were weak in covering Harrison out of the backfield and they could not slow down tight ends Heiden and Winslow for the majority of the game. The failure to generate a significant pass rush for much of the game can be significantly attributed to the weakened secondary, forcing the linebackers to play more coverage than usual.
Defensive Backs: C-
It’s almost hard to blame this group, because these players are being pushed into roles that they should not be playing. Fabian Washington, Frank Walker, and Corey Ivy should not have to be the 1-2-3 cornerbacks on the roster. The matchups were difficult, but this unit has to do better regardless of circumstances.

Special Teams - Overall Grade: D
Kicker: A-

Stover was 3-3 on field goals and 4-4 on extra points, so it’s hard to ask for much more from a field goal kicking perspective. However, Stover was unable to put sufficient hangtime and distance on kickoffs to limit Cribbs’ opportunities.
Punter: B
Sam Koch had one abysmal line-drive punt to Cribbs, but outside of that he was alright. Despite his one poor punt he did average 41 yards on six punts, with two placed within the 20.
Returners: C
Musical chairs in the return game for the Ravens, as they used two kick returners (Figurs and Rice) and three punt returners (Figurs, Leonhard, and Reed). None of these returners had much success, and when a team shuffles returners, good things aren’t usually happening.
Coverage: D-
What can I say. They couldn’t block for their return men and they sure as heck couldn’t control Joshua Cribbs in the slightest. Cribbs gained a total of 278 yards between punt and kickoff returns, along with his 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. If the Ravens lost this game, there would be only one place to point the blame.

Coaching - Overall Grade: B+
Offensive: B

This may seem a little harsh since the Ravens offense scored 31 points (six by defense) in the game. Early in the game, the play calling was suspect, as the Ravens seemed to be making overly conservative play calls just to make sure nothing terrible happened. Add to that, the Suggs package caused many problems and did not do any good. However, the fact is Cam Cameron's troops scored 31 points, had the big plays when they needed them, and some of those drives in the second half completely fooled the Cleveland defense. Overall, a job well done by Cam Cameron.
Defensive: B
I really have difficulty grading Rex Ryan on this game, because while his defense was often gashed by the Browns offense, the defense was put in horrible spots by the ineffective special teams and is seriously unmanned in the secondary. The pass defense was suspect, but as usual the run defense was dominant. At the end of the day, Rex Ryan deserves the benefit of the doubt.

And for my MVP/LVP...
MVP (Most Valuable Player) –Ray Rice–
Ray Rice was the difference in this game, sparking the Ravens’ comeback in the third and fourth quarters. The rookie from Rutgers was electric, starting in place of Willis McGahee, rushing for 154 yards on 21 carries.
LVP (Least Valuable Player) –Corey Ivy– Another very poor day in the secondary, and Ivy was certainly not the only guilty party. However, Ivy was the weakest link in the group and was repeatedly picked on.
(Photo Credits: Ray Rice (Gene Sweeney Jr./Baltimore Sun), Joshua Cribbs (AP))

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