The Baltimore Ravens came alive in the second half after starting slow out of the gate of an eventual 28-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The win over the Browns strengthens a hold on the lead of the AFC North division, for now. The defense dominated the entire game, allowing 144 yards and causing the Browns to bench rookie QB Cody Kessler for veteran Josh McCown.
Joe Flacco’s offense woke up after halftime to the tune of 22 unanswered points coming from three passing touchdowns. Could this be a sign of better things to come for the offense?
Here are my main points from last Thursday’s win.
What I Liked
- Scoring In The Redzone. Aside from a lackluster first half in which they scored just two Justin Tucker field goals Joe Flacco threw two redzone touchdowns in the 3rd quarter. Baltimore has had trouble getting into the endzone this year (14 offensive touchdowns), so seeing Flacco throw two in the redzone Thursday was encouraging. The Browns defense is ranked last in the league this season, although they do typically play tough against the AFC North. Flacco must repeat his second half performance against tougher opponents to prove Thursday was not an anomaly.
- Defensive Domination. Baltimore’s defense is now ranked No. 1 in the league after their second matchup against Cleveland. Two weeks in a row now they have played stellar against two divisional opponents ranked 11th (Pittsburgh) and 16th (Cleveland) in total offense. This defense has great chemistry from top to bottom. The secondary is playing better than it has for years in Baltimore. The addition of Eric Weddle has turned what was a weakness into a strong suit quickly. Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young complement each other’s strengths and makeup a great cornerback duo. C.J. Mosley, Brandon Williams, and Timmy Jernigan have turned this front seven into a run-stopping force. Terrell Suggs’ strip sack of McCown was a thing of beauty.
- Getting Young Players Involved. Two of Flacco’s three touchdowns went to second-year players receiving the first touchdowns of their careers. Tight End Darren Waller, who is second on the depth chart with Crockett Gillmore’s injury, brought in the first touchdown of the night for the Ravens. Waller, a 6th round selection in 2015, was immediately viewed as a redzone target of the future for Flacco when he was drafted. All four of his receptions have come in the past two games, and he is putting it upon himself to produce with Gillmore injured. Breshad Perriman’s long awaited endzone debut arrived late in the game Thursday, and put the game out of reach with six minutes left. Fans have been waiting for Perriman to become a solid contributor on this offense for over a year now. Perriman’s next goal: score a touchdown under pressure. Rookie Running Back Kenneth Dixon had his biggest game of the season, as well (more on that below).
- Getting Kessler Benched. Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson hand-picked Kessler in the 2016 Draft as his potential quarterback of the future. After committing to him full time just before the game in Baltimore he pulled the rookie QB after one half of work. Kessler’s veteran replacement, who has beaten the Ravens twice in the past four years, fared no better for Cleveland this time around. McCown threw two picks and could not put any points on the board in his half of work.
- Getting Dixon Involved. Dixon showed reason to get him more involved in the offense Thursday with his most productive game of the season. Terrance West still owns this backfield, but Dixon could be a nice change-of-pace back to keep West fresh. Dixon only touched the ball 11 times throughout the contest, but made the most of his opportunities. On only six carries he gained 38 yards, while gaining 42 on his five receptions. Once Dixon finds the endzone for the first time, things will come more naturally for the talented rookie.
What I Didn’t Like
- Two Minute Offense. Baltimore got the ball with 1:39 left on the clock in the 2nd quarter with all three of its timeouts and down 7-3. Against the worst defense in the league, the offense played for a field goal. They repeatedly threw short slant routes early in the drive, causing them to burn their timeouts before advancing deep down the field. The longest gain of the drive was a 14-yard play that helped get into field goal position, but there were no attempts to push the ball deep downfield. Why did the offense play so conservative on a drive that could have ended so well? Flacco knows the Browns, he was playing at home, yet the offense seemed content only coming away with three points. Flacco has been vocal about being too conservative in the past, and knows the offense needs to step up if they want to make a post season run.
- Starting Games Slow. Baltimore has become known as a second half team in the past few years. The team consistently starts slow on offense, especially when playing against inferior opponents. And it seems that when the offense does start hot out of the gate, they fizzle later. Starting slow against teams like the Browns is forgivable given that Baltimore finds ways to beat them. But if Baltimore can only put up 6 points against the Steelers, Bengals, and Patriots later in the season, they might need more than just the second half to come back. The Ravens are hoping that their second half against Cleveland will give the offense some momentum going forward.
- I like this team. Just when fans start calling for John Harbaugh to be fired, he pulls his team back together. Baltimore fans are passionate, and four game losing streaks are rare, but there is plenty of football ahead. The Ravens improved to 3-0 in the division, which is crucial for a North title. The AFC North is down, and the Ravens are taking advantage. After cheering for a Dallas win over Pittsburgh yesterday, which put Baltimore in sole possession of the division lead, Baltimore must get ready for its toughest opponent of the season so far.
Week Eleven Preview
- The Ravens travel to Dallas to play two of the most electrifying rookies in recent NFL history. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are playing like seasoned veterans behind the best offensive line in football. This game will be a major test for Baltimore’s No. 1 ranked defense. If Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce can slow down Elliott the slightest bit and our pass rush can rattle Prescott, than the Ravens have a chance. The offense is capable of scoring on Dallas’ overachieving defense. The offensive line is banged up yet again for Baltimore, so Flacco will need his A game next Sunday to end the longest current winning streak in the NFL.
Ravens’ Alex Collins Arrested
Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins was arrested early on Friday morning following a car crash about a mile from the Ravens’ team facility, according to a report from the Baltimore Sun.
Per the report: Officers responded to a report of a car that had crashed into a tree on the 10000 block of Dolfield Road at about 6:48 a.m. Friday morning, Baltimore County police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Peach said.
Collins, 24, was arrested, however charges were not made public at the time of this writing.
Ravens vice president of public relations Chad Steele told The Baltimore Sun that the team has spoken with law enforcement and is aware of the situation involving Collins.
Collins is coming off a down year with Baltimore after a breakout campaign in 2017. Collins managed only 411 yards rushing in 2018 and was placed on injured reserve back in December, ending his season early.
Ray Rice Says He Is Done With Football
Former NFL running back Ray Rice, who had been working to try and get a second chance in the NFL over the past couple of years, is no longer pursuing a comeback.
“I’ll be the first one to say it; I don’t have to retire to tell you I’m done with football” Rice said, during an interview on CBS This Morning.
“The pressure I was under of being a star, that was the person I hated the most.”
Rice was suspended indefinitely back in 2014 when a video surfaces showing Rice punching his then-fiancee, now wife, Janay Rice while the two were alone in an elevator.
Rice was never picked up by another team following the conclusion of his suspension, and his release from the Baltimore Ravens.
Rice said that he sees “similarities” between his situation and the one of former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, who was recently cut loose by the team when a video surfaced showing him pushing and kicking a woman in a hallway.
“Somewhere down the line everybody who’s sayin’, ‘Does he deserve a second chance for football?’ And this that and the other— I actually got my second chance” Rice said of Hunt, who cleared waivers and is now a free agent.
“During my darkest moments, and I used to ask myself, ‘How could she even be—want to support me?’ … That’s understandable. But I think what’s misunderstood about us is that the friends we were before the incident. That’s why, like I said, when I look at Kareem Hunt, I wanna know what his life was like. I want to know what happened in life. I know Kareem has apologized, and has expressed remorse for survivors of domestic violence.”
Ravens Trying To Entice Fans With Lower Concession Prices
The Baltimore Ravens are attempting to win back fans and their latest plan is making a big step toward doing just that as the team announced on Tuesday that they will reduce concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium in 2018.
The Ravens have been on a mission to bring back fans who were angered by some players’ national anthem protests coupled with their 3-year playoff drought.
A series of moves have demonstrated their efforts. The team invited fans to ask questions at a media pre-draft news conference held a question-and-answer session with fans at the team facility with owner Steve Bisciotti, coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome, and also have had team president Dick Cass meet and talk to fan clubs.
While the team has sold out every game during their 20-year history at M&T Bank Stadium, empty seats grew in numbers as the 2017 season wore on, and the no-shows are very obvious.
The organization is taking this initiative very seriously.
“It’s something I would really like to take a hard look at, and at least, come up with select items that we can do,” Bisciotti said back in February of this year.
“If it means us … I can’t make Aramark do that with me, but I can make them go along as long as it’s my share of the profits that I’m waiving. Yeah, I’d like to take a look at that. I think we could probably do that.”
There is an official news conference scheduled for Thursday where the Ravens will officially announce price reductions on concessions.
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