Ravens escape in Cleveland, 23-21

Watching the Baltimore Ravens is like watching the season finale of a TV show. You have your drama (2-minute drill, no timeouts, game on the line), twists and turns (the defense stepping up two times in a row after being demolished all game), and heroes rising and falling (Pitta going down, Flacco and Steve Smith coming up big). Ultimately, the Ravens prevailed 23-21 over the Cleveland Browns, showing mental toughness in a game in which they played poorly and in the wake of more off-the-field controversy.

The Ravens came out impressive after electing to receive the ball instead of deferring, which they typically do. An impressive first drive stalled and ended in a Justin Tucker field goal, but the Ravens may have found a nice Ray Rice/Bernard Pierce replacement in Lornezo Taliaferro. He ran strong and made some nice cuts. He reminds me of Alfred Morris; he has that combination of size and deceptive quickness on his first cut. A friend suggested a Brandon Jacobs comparison, which isn’t bad either. Taliaferro finished with 18 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown.

The offense as a whole was fine. The offensive line did a good job of protecting Flacco and certainly did a fantastic job in the running game, especially the right side. Marshall Yanda and Rick Wagner deserve praise. Taliaferro had a lot of room to run over their direction. The Ravens still have short yardage problems, though. The Browns, however, did bail out the Ravens on numerous occasions with penalties and missed field goals (Hi, Billy Cundiff!)

After Dennis Pitta went down with a dislocated hip – the same hip he injured last year –  (I don’t want to talk about it) the Ravens utilized Kyle Juszczyk, a full back-tight end combo who can come out of the backfield and make some plays. They’ll have to relay on him more. Juszczyk finished with three catches for 54 yards.

The really ugly part in the game for the Ravens came on defense. There aren’t too many adjectives to describe how poor the Ravens defense played, so I’l just choose “abysmal.” The Ravens couldn’t muster any pressure on Brain Hoyer aside from one nice hurry by C.J. Mosley and a sack by Courtney Upshaw that came on a broken play. They have just three sacks on the season, with one coming on that broken play.

The front line couldn’t shed their blocks and the secondary got picked apart all day. Matt Elam had what could very possibly end up being the worst game of his career. He let his man beat him multiple times and missed multiple tackles. The whole defense, frankly, looked like they skipped the tackling drills this week in practice. Lardarius Webb saw some action in his first game back, but looked nowhere near up to speed.

The defense though, showed a lot of toughness and held the Browns on their final two drives. The Browns had to start their last drive at their own seven yard line after a great Sam Koch punt. The defense held and gave the offense great field position, allowing Joe Flacco and Steve Smith to set up the game winning 32-yard Tucker field goal.

Like I said, it’s always an episode with the Ravens. The thing with the Flacco/John Harbaugh Era is that any game, against any opponent, in any given situation is winnable. No team or moment is too big. But then there’s the other side of the coin: it never surprises when they play like garbage or lose to teams like Jacksonville and Cleveland. You take the good with the bad. I’ll take these ugly win’s, no matter the hour-long torture we have to endure.

The Ravens come back home next week to take on the Carolina Panthers. It’s a revenge game for Steve Smith. You think he’ll have a little extra crazy in him?


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