Five Things We Learned from the Ravens' 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns
Baltimore Sun reporter/blogger Matt Vensel analyzes the Ravens' win over Cleveland.
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3( Getty Images / November 4, 2012 )
Even when the Ravens are struggling to run the ball in a close game, they have to keep feeding the ball to Ray Rice and Co. because the offense is at its best when it is balanced.
One common denominator in the offense's issues on the road was that the Ravens got away from the running game in key stretches, like the third quarter of the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and early in the blowout loss to the Houston Texans. This issue wasn't just how much they used Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, whose workload has been scrutinized the past two weeks. More importantly, it was when they were using him. But even as the Ravens went three-and-out on five consecutive drives in Sunday's 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns and went two quarters without picking up a first down, they stuck with Rice and the ground game, and it paid off during their late touchdown drive that could end up being a turning point for an offense that is trying to establish an identity away from M&T Bank Stadium. As the Ravens drove 80 yards in about four and a half minutes, they ran the ball five times and threw it five times. They did most of the damage through the air, but the running game kept the Browns honest.
I am not buying into all the friendly chatter from the Ravens about how the Browns are close to being contenders. I'm sorry, but they aren't. But that's no fault of their defense, which the numbers will tell you is a lot better than folks give it credit for. The Browns made adjustments after Rice ran for 58 yards on 11 carries in the first quarter -- Bernard Pierce had success, too -- and slowed down the running game over the next two quarters. But the Ravens and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron were able to reclaim control of the chess match after falling behind midway through the fourth quarter. Hitting on some play-action passes and stretching out the Browns instead of slamming Rice into the middle of the front seven, the Ravens were able to get back in a groove before it was too late and reclaim the lead.
But we knew the Ravens would be bullish with their ground game Sunday, and it wasn't just because they had averaged 193 rushing yards in their four previous games in Cleveland. It feels like the Ravens always try to feed the ball to Rice after one of those ugly road losses when he gets less than 10 carries. And coach John Harbaugh seemed genuine when he said the day after the loss in Houston that he wished they had been more patient with the running game. The Ravens were able to come back against the Browns because they didn't lose their patience this time around and kept running the ball in the second half. The question now centers on whether the Ravens really have altered their approach going forward, or if they will again forgo the body blows and start throwing haymakers the next time the running attack meets resistance in a tight game. I don't know about you, but one game isn't enough for me to draw that conclusion, as we've seen the Ravens make Rice an afterthought on the road too often.