The only thing hurting more than the Cleveland Browns’ playoff chances this morning is Kellan Winslow, Jr. That “soldier” is likely suffering from some PRLD (post Ray Lewis Disorder) after being absolutely exploded early in the 3rd quarter of the Ravens convincing 28-10 victory. The Ravens again looked like a team that knows exactly what they want to do on the field, which is pressure the quarterback and cause turnovers on defense, and pound the other team into submission on offense. They executed that game plan very well for the second consecutive game, sacking Derek Anderson 5 times (the most he has been sacked in his career), picking off 3 of his passes, and racking up 212 yards on the ground.
The Ravens moved the ball well on their opening drive, which started at their own 14 yard line, but ended disappointingly with a Matt Stover 48 yard field goal attempt that clanked off the right upright. On the next drive, rookie quarterback Joe Flacco made his first real “rookie blunder” hitting Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (who, ironically, many Ravens fans cheered for just a few years ago when he was a Maryland Terrapin) in the numbers for an interception. It was a disappointing end to a drive that had already picked up 3 first downs, one coming on a 4th-and-2 QB sneak just one play prior. However, “Joe Cool” was undeterred, reportedly going up to Coach John Harbaugh on the sideline soon after, and saying “My bad. It won’t happen again.” The Browns, though, were able to turn that pick into 7 points, as Derek Anderson hit Jerome Harrison on a screen pass for a 19 yard score.
The next Ravens possession started well again, as they picked up 2 more first downs. Then things got a little weird, though. On 1st-and-10 from their own 47, Joe Flacco pitched to Willis McGahee, who ran right toward the sideline, wheeled, and tossed the ball back to Flacco. The next step in this strange, semi-flea flicker was Flacco throwing deep to Derrick Mason, who was blanketed by 3 Cleveland defenders who were not fooled. Mason was unable to wrestle the ball from Mike Adams, who intercepted it in the end zone for the touchback.
While we love the creative, risky aspect of the call, we are a bit puzzled with the personnel utilized. Derrick Mason? A great possession receiver, obviously, but also the oldest, and probably slowest, of Ravens wideouts. Why not send somebody with a little more speed (Demetrius Williams) or size (Todd Heap) on that route, someone that can get some separation and/or have a better chance at winning a jump-ball, if need be. Mason did neither, and the result wasn’t what anybody in purple was hoping for.
On the next Ravens drive, with Cam Cameron maybe sensing that his young QB might not remain so cool with THREE first half interceptions, got back to basics and let Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee do their thing on the ground. On 7 plays, they ran the ball 6 times, and McGahee topped off the drive with a 5 yard scamper for his first TD of the year. This was a sign of things to come for the two teams.
A Phil Dawson field goal put the Browns up 10-7 at the half. With less than a minute to play though, a scary scene unfolded at M&T Bank Stadium. Ravens strong safety Dawan Landry tried to go low on Jamal Lewis, and his head was snapped back by Lewis’ thigh. He lay motionless on the field for several tense minutes, as players from both teams knelt beside each other around him. He was ultimately taken off the field on a stretcher, and went to shock trauma. The latest report on Landry is promising, as he was diagnosed with a “spinal cord concussion,” which should not do any permanent damage. He is also said to have feeling in all his extremities. The Nest wishes a quick and full recovery for Dawan Landry.
What went on in the Ravens locker room at halftime, we cannot be exactly certain, but it would change the direction of the game dramatically. According to post-game comments made by Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis cranked up his “leader-meter” in some form, and the purple-and-black responded. On the Browns opening drive of the 2nd half, they faced 3rd-and-3 from their own 17. Anderson lined up in the shotgun, 3 receivers bunched to his right. One of them was the aforementioned Winslow. Winslow ran a short pattern, designed to pick up about 4 yards, behind another receiver that had ran a short cross in front of him. Ray Lewis, dropping into coverage, let the first receiver go by, giving him just a glance. In Anderson’s mind though, Lewis must have went to cover that guy, because he quickly turned and threw to Winslow, and Ray was moving before the ball was even in the Air.
Winslow never had a chance.
Lewis unloaded on Kellan just as the ball arrived, in a hit that is sure to put him at the top of “Jacked Up!” on ESPN this week. The ball popped up in the air, Chris McAlister opportunistically plucked it, and returned it to the Cleveland 12. The Ravens would pound the ball into the end zone from there, with McClain giving them a lead they would not relinquish.
To those that think Ray has lost a step, he is serving notice so far in 2008. In 2 games, he has had a direct hand in 2 turnovers, ripping the ball from Chris Perry’s arms in week 1, and causing this first interception of the game in week 3.
Yes, we say 1st interception, because the Ravens amped-up defense wasn’t even close to done welcoming Derek back to B’More. The Browns would run only 3 plays on their
next “drive” before Ed “Yeah, I have a nerve impingement, and I’m really not trying to tackle anybody if I don’t have to, but I’m still the best damn safety in the NFL, period” REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED stepped in front of Braylon Edwards and scurried 32 yards to paydirt. The Ravens were up 21-10, and the rout was on. Le’Run closed out the
scoring, punching another TD in from 1 yard out. Anderson would ultimately throw ANOTHER interception, this time hitting Samari Rolle on the first play after the 2 minute warning. “Joe Cool” then lined up in the victory formation, and his record as a starter in the NFL was officially 2-0.
Whether you were at the stadium, feeling the electricity of the purple party atmosphere, or watching at home, screaming at your TV, this one felt great. To get some revenge on those Brown Stains after that game they stole from us here last year, and to absolutely manhandle them in doing so, tastes as good as that purple kool-aid that is drowning Charm City this morning.
Sure, realistically, the Ravens haven’t really proven anything, beating 2 teams with a combined record of 0-6. But they did BEAT them…convincingly. The Ravens are still #1 in total and passing defense after this week. Joe Flacco, while having as many interceptions as wins, and no touchdown passes…is also undefeated. With what we were all expecting (or not expecting) from the 2008 Ravens, the first two contests have been a pleasant surprise, and have reminded us why we are fans.
Another pleasant surprise would be to go into the Big Ketchup Bottle in Steeltown next week and beat the Squealers. But we’ll cross that bridge (or those 15 bridges in 15 blocks, as the case may be…seriously, that city is like a soot-covered craplantis) when we come to it.