Archive for December, 2011

Ravens 24 Browns 10 (The RAY RICE RUNNING THROUGH THE RAIN Game)

December 5, 2011

Rice ran through a crapstorm in Cleveland

Finally – for the first time since way back in Week 3 – the Ravens were able to dominate an inferior opponent on the road, running roughshod over the Cleveland Browns for a 24-10 victory that wasn’t as close as the two touchdown final spread might indicate.

Ray Rice had a career day sloshing through the muddy muck at Cleveland Stadium, piling up 204 yards on 29 carries, including a 67-yard scamper that set up a 1-yard Ricky Williams touchdown near the end of the third quarter after the Browns had closed to within 10-3. Williams added 76 yards on 16 carries as the Ravens stuck with the run to pound Cleveland into submission. The 55 rushing attempts set a franchise record, while the 290 total ground yards were good for third in team history. The Ravens’ offensive line simply manhandled the Browns all day, giving Rice and Williams the kinds of holes to run through they likely haven’t seen since high school, much less since coming into the NFL.

Joe Flacco had a very “game manager” type day, going 10/23 for 158 yards. His numbers could have been better had his receivers not continually betrayed him, from Lee Evans and Torrey Smith both dropping potential touchdown passes to Anquan Boldin having several throws clang off his hands. The inclement weather in Cleveland certainly could have played a role (Browns receivers were dropping passes left and right as well), but it was unsettling to watch the Ravens’ veteran wideouts be so inconsistent. We’ve heard about how fresh Lee Evans’ legs are going into the stretch run, but it doesn’t matter how good his legs feel if his hands can’t do what they’re supposed to.

The Ravens’ defensive effort, while not as dominant as 10 days prior against San Francisco, was still quite impressive. After a few strong early runs, Browns’ running back Peyton Hillis was shut down and finished his day with just 45 yards on 12 carries. Rookie Pernell McPhee added two more sacks to his impressive rookie resume, and Terrell Suggs picked up his 10th quarterback drop of the season. Haloti Ngata batted down two Colt McCoy passes, and rookie Jimmy Smith picked up his second career interception (and first that he didn’t subsequently fumble).

While McCoy ended the day with just the single interception, that number could have easily been three or four, as it seemed like Ravens’ defenders were getting their hands on just about every pass he threw.

Lardarius Webb was one of the defenders who nearly had a pick. Though he was unable to pick up an interception, Webb made his mark on the game, finally breaking a punt return for a touchdown. It was Webb’s first trip to the end zone on special teams since having a touchdown called back in the divisional playoff game in Pittsburgh. The 68-yard return gave the Ravens a 24-3 lead with seven minutes to play, and undoubtedly elicited the familiar “the hay’s in the barn” call from Ravens’ radio man Gerry (with a G!) Sandusky.

There were two big hiccups by the defense, though, that led to all 10 of the Browns’ points. In the third quarter, Hillis was left completely uncovered on a 52-yard reception that set up a 21-yard Phil Dawson field goal. Still, after holding in the red zone, the defense had a chance to hold their opponent without a touchdown for the second consecutive game. Instead, another blown coverage resulted in a 22-yard touchdown by tight end Evan Moore on a 4th-and-10 play that ended up being the Browns’ final offensive snap of the evening.

Those mistakes are correctable, and Chuck Pagano will have to look at the tape and figure out why his secondary is still having what they like to call “communication issues.” That kind of thing is understandable at the start of the season, but going into the final quarter – and then the playoffs – everyone needs to be on the same page on the back end.

Other gripes for the day include:

  • Red zone woes. The Ravens scored just two touchdowns on four trips (not including the final drive, which ended on kneel-downs), and failed to get into the end zone after being awarded a 1st-and-goal from the 3 following a pass interference penalty.
  • Billy Cundiff’s struggles. The Ravens’ kicker continues to be wildly inconsistent away from M&T Bank Stadium. His first extra point try clanged off the right upright before going through, and then he missed on 34 and 41-yard tries on consecutive drives in the second quarter. He finally hit from 21, but it wasn’t a day Cundiff will look back upon fondly. He is now 26/34 on the season after going 26/29 in 2010. All eight of his misses, though, have come on the road (2 @ St. Louis, 1 @ Jax, 2 @ Sea, 1 @ Pit, 2 @ Cle). He is now 10/18 (55%) everywhere but M&T, where he is a perfect 16/16. Just one more reason that securing a top seed for the postseason is tantamount for this team.

It was a strong, businesslike performance, the kind this team needed to show they can put together down the stretch. With Cincinnati giving the Ravens absolutely no help in getting stomped by Pittsburgh, the Ravens’ two head-to-head victories over the Steelers remain the only thing standing between a potential home playoff game or two and another wild card berth. With the hapless 0-11 Indianapolis Colts coming to town next week, the Ravens should have no problem continuing to hold Pittsburgh at bay.

Ravens (8-3) @ Browns (4-7)

December 2, 2011

The Ravens travel to Cleveland this week for the first matchup of the season with the division rival Browns, looking to avoid another road letdown like the ones that befell them in Seattle and Jacksonville (I’m still OK with the Tennessee loss – they’re a decent team, and damn near “good” with Kenny Britt). They’ve had two emotional wins in a row, with a last minute defensive stand against Cincinnati followed by the HarBowl, but they still find themselves in a dogfight for the AFC North title, despite sweeping the Pittsburgh Steelers already. A loss on Sunday could result in the Ravens finding themselves looking up at Pittsburgh on Monday morning, or, best case scenario, in a three way tie with them and Cincinnati at 8-4.

Thus, it is paramount to take care of business in Cleveland against a struggling Browns team.

Fortunately, if  history is any indication, the Ravens will do just that. They are 6-0 against Cleveland in the Harbaugh/Flacco era, including  a 20-10 win last December, a game in which they intercepted Colt McCoy three times, and the only touchdown they allowed was on a trick play.

The Browns enter the game with the NFL’s top passing defense, which is really more due to their 29th ranked run defense than of any particularly spectacular secondary play (cornerback Joe Haden is a beast, however); teams just decide to attack the Browns on the ground, and most have plenty of success doing so. Of course, this is exactly the kind of situation where Cam Cameron seems likely to try to outsmart everyone.

“They think we’re going to run, so let’s pass the ball 40 times.”

Hopefully he learned his lesson after the aforementioned Titans, Jagaurs, and Seahawks games though, all losses in which Ray Rice was inexcusably absent from the offense.

The game time forecast is cold and rainy, another reason for Cam to swallow his pride and grind it out on the ground.

Haden, though he got torched by A.J. Green a few times last week against Cincinnati, is not to be taken lightly. He had six interceptions in his rookie year, and though he has none this season, that is mostly a symptom of opposing teams staying away from him. While Torrey Smith is unlikely to have the same kind of success fellow rookie Green did, he, along with Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans should be able to mix-and-match their formations enough to draw more favorable matchups and keep the chains moving on third-and-long. Joe Flacco is coming off consecutive games with a 100+ quarterback rating and in which he completed at least 63% of his passes, his first back-to-back such performances of 2011. Coincidentally (or not) enough, he also had his two fewest attempts of the year in those Cincy and San Fran games, at 27 and 23, respectively.

The Browns also just lost two starters from their front seven, with linebacker Scott Fujita and defensive end Emmanuel Stephens being placed on IR last week. The weak run defense gets weaker.

The formula is there – feed Ray, take a shot here or there.

And of course, play defense.

The Ravens are coming off one of their best defensive performances of the season, both in terms of points allowed (6 – best so far) and net yards allowed (170 – second only to Jets game). A Browns attack that is near the bottom of the NFL in nearly every category should find the going quite tough Sunday. Honestly, I can’t see how they are going to move the ball and/or score, aside from going to the trickery well again like they did last December.

The only worrisome element is the return of running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis, befell by the “Madden Cover Jinx” this season, has not been nearly the back he was in 2010, when he ran for over 1100 yards and 4.4 yards per carry. One hundred forty-four of those yards came against the Ravens in Week 3, when Hillis gashed the B’More defense for 6.5 yards a pop. In the rematch, though, the former Arkansas Razorback managed only 12 carries for 39 yards. The Ravens will hope to hold Hillis to a performance that much more closely resembles the latter. He carried 19 times for 65 yards against the Bengals’ stout front last week, and the Ravens will need to keep him contained, lest they find themselves in another trailing scenario.

They’ll likely have to do so without the services of Ray Lewis, who is expected to miss his third consecutive game. On the bright side, Dannell Ellerbe should return to the lineup, and is the perfect candidate to meet Hillis in the hole again and again.

The Browns’ leading receiver is rookie Greg Little, with 47 catches for 495 yards. Little is prone to the dropsies (as anybody who watched that Cleveland-Cincinnati game can attest), but could also become a thorn in the Ravens’ side if they are unable to pressure Colt McCoy as they did Alex Smith a week ago. Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi both average over 12 yards per reception for the Browns.

McCoy, for his part, has improved his play in his second season. While he’s thrown a single interception in eight of 11 games, he hasn’t thrown more than one in any game so far. He’s been sacked 26 times, but is also a threat to take off for a first down, as evidenced by his 185 yards on the ground this year. He is similar in a lot of ways to the 49ers’ Smith though (quick feet, weak arm), so it’s not inconceivable for the Ravens to have similar success.

Cribbs can also be dangerous weapon in the return game, as Ravens fans are well aware. Jerry Rosburg’s unit did a good job containing Ted Ginn, Jr. last week, and they’ve kept the clamps on Cribbs over the past couple year, but they have been shaky overall this season, so hopefully Billy Cundiff can boot a few out of the back of the end zone.

The Ravens are halfway to sweeping the division at 3-0, and the odd thing is that it looks like they might have to if they want to be AFC North champs here in 2011. A loss to Cleveland (either here or in Week 16) will damage their home playoff/first round bye dreams, perhaps irreparably. I think they’ll take care of business, but I doubt it will be pretty or easy.

Ravens 20 Browns 13

Ed Reed: Browns Quarterbacks are Easiest to Read

December 2, 2011

Ed Reed may have inadvertently given Colt McCoy and the Browns some bulletin board material going into Sunday’s game.

In an interview with Seth Wickersham of ESPN the Magazine, Reed was asked who are the toughest, and easiest, quarterbacks in the league to read.

Who are the toughest QBs to read? Brady. Peyton. Brees. Rivers. Palmer.

The easiest? Younger guys — and most of the QBs in Cleveland.

Although the interview took place over a month ago (October 28), it appears in the December 12 edition of the magazine, and the article was just published online this week.

Reed knows a bit of what he speaks. In the “Ed Reed is on Fire” game last December, Reed picked off McCoy twice as the Ravens intercepted the rookie three times on the day. Ed has intercepted Cleveland quarterbacks ten times in his career.

However, McCoy, after throwing three interceptions in consecutive weeks against the Ravens and Steelers to close out the 2010 season, has not thrown more than one pick in a game here in 2011. He has, though, thrown a single interception in eight of 11 contests.

Reed’s most memorable interception against the Browns was in the 2004 season, when he picked off Jeff Garcia in the Ravens end zone and returned the pick 106 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.

Adding Some Style to the Cleveland Browns' Helments

December 1, 2011

It’s bad enough that one team in the AFC North can only afford to put logos on one side of their helmet.

Then you have the Cleveland Browns, who can’t be bothered to slap even a single logo on their lids, thus sporting the most boring look in the NFL. Sure, we get it, it’s a classic look, blah, blah, blah…

In today’s football world, that crap doesn’t fly any more. Look at college football…teams like Oregon and Maryland come up with something new and beautiful/hideous every week. Even such sacred looks as the Notre Dame “golden domes” got spiced up a bit in 2011.

In that spirit, we think it’s high time the Browns get with it and jazz things up. We even have a few suggestions!

Variations of this next one were suggested by just about everyone we polled on Twitter (@BMoreBirdsNest), including @B_MoreFanatic, @Spradlinn, and @mikehen08.

Alternatively:

@FranLangley thinks Cleveland’s biggest celebrity mascot, Drew Carey, would look good…

This next one, suggested by @DTaylorEvoX, seems mean spirited at first…

But when you think about it, what would get Cleveland fans more fired up than seeing a sad LeBron James face on their teams’ uniforms? Hell, it would be a great distraction from the Browns’ play on the field.

“Man, our team sucks.”

“Yeah, but at least LeBron was sad that one time!”

“Oh, hell yeah!”

Twitter follower @Montego335xi took things a step further than just suggesting logos, going as far as to create and submit his own:

The Cleveland James Browns:

The Cleveland Charlie Browns:

Or the Cleveland Hash Browns:

Feel free to use any of these awesome designs, Browns! And feel free to keep sucking, please, especially when you play the Ravens (by all means, though, please beat the everloving Browns out of the Steelers!)


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