The growing timing and chemistry between Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown was one of the lone bright spots Sunday during a disheartening loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Brown caught two touchdown passes and a two-point conversion to account for 14 of the Ravens' points during a 24-18 defeat at FirstEnergy Stadium.
With his 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame and athleticism, Brown is an inviting target for Flacco.
"Honestly, it's nothing complicated," said Brown, who went undrafted out of Georgia after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last November. "On a couple of plays, Joe threw strikes and I ran a good route. Probably everyday in practice, I just see myself getting better at just one thing. If I just keep doing that, the sky is the limit from there."
Brown now has a team-high five touchdown catches this season and a total of 26 receptions for 297 yards.
"Marlon played really well, Marlon made plays for us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Marlon made catches and runs after the catch. He made a spectacular play on the two-point conversion. I'm really proud of the way he played."
Targeted nine times, Brown caught five passes for 54 yards. That included touchdown catches of 19 and 7 yards.
However, Brown wasn't satisfied by the contributions he made, considering they came in a loss.
"I care about winning and making plays when I can," Brown said. "I just try to always be right where Joe wants me to be. If I'm not where Joe wants me to be, I'm not going to get the ball."
Running game goes nowhere
The Browns' stout front seven stonewalled the Ravens' beleaguered running game, limiting Baltimore to 55 yards on 21 runs with a paltry average of 2.6 yards per carry
If not for Flacco scrambling for 25 yards on three runs, including a 15-yard run that was the Ravens' longest, the team would have had only 30 rushing yards overall.
"We have to figure that out," Harbaugh said. "We can not run the ball right now. That's a good front, they did a great job. We felt by spreading them out we would give ourselves a chance to run the ball. For the most part, they stayed in a seven-man box against the spread look we gave them.
"We aren't making plays with the run, making enough runs to open up the defense and give us a chance. It's tough to run against that look. I still think we can run against anyone, but that was the story of the game."
Three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice rushed for only 17 yards on 11 carries after declaring that the runing game would get back on track. Rice wasn't in the locker room after the game when it was open to reporters.
"You're never going to have the perfect game or the perfect blocking scheme," said backup Bernard Pierce, who rushed for 11 yards on six carries. "You get as many yards as you can. I don't really get frustrated as much as you may think I get frustrated. It's man on man, body on body. Some mistakes were made, and it killed us."
J. Smith injured.
Starting cornerback Jimmy Smith left the game with a groin injury and didn't return. He'll be examined again Monday to determine the severity of the injury.
Smith was replaced in the nickel package by reserve cornerback Chykie Brown.
Harbaugh said Flacco, despite being sacked five times, wasn't injured on Sunday.
"They were blitzing us a bunch," offensive guard Marshal Yanda said. "They were getting in there more than we want them to."
Browns wide receiver Greg Little was involved in a few skirmishes with Ravens strong safety James Ihedigbo.
When Ihedigbo's helmet came off during a shoving match in the first quarter, Little launched it airborne several yards toward the sidelines and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
After catching a 15-yard pass and running out of bounds in the second quarter, Little shoved Ihedigbo and then gestured with his hand to try to encourage the defensive back to mix it up again, earning Little his second 15-yard penalty. The flag was quickly thrown and there wasn't a second fight.
"He was trying to be a tough guy," Ihedigbo said. "Some guys that aren't tough try to prove that they're tough. It's all good. I wasn't worried about that."
Nose guard Haloti Ngata was penalized for unnecessary roughness in the second quarter when he landed on top of quarterback Jason Campbell while trying to make a diving tackle.
Campbell briefly left the game with a rib injury, but returned and finished with three touchdown passes. After the game, Campbell said he had no problem with Ngata, who apologized to him.
The Ravens took issue with the penalty considering there appeared to be no malicious intent from Ngata, who was airborne when Campbell was falling to the ground.
"Haloti is trying to make a tackle," Harbaugh said. "Haloti is in the air while Jason Campbell is in the air. Jason's running and because he ends up landing on him it's hard for me to understand why that's called. It's a judgment call."
Middle linebacker Daryl Smith was flagged for unnecessary roughness in the third quarter for slamming Little to the ground on an incomplete pass where he didn't have the ball.
"I don't think he thought he didn't have the ball," Harbaugh said. "He's trying to make a tackle. That's a big man, and it's tough to get him to the ground. I can't fault the two players on those penalties."
Converted center A.Q. Shipley started his first NFL game at left offensive guard in place of Kelechi Osemele, who's expected to soon undergo season-ending back surgery.
Shipley appeared to hold his own for the most part blocking defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, who finished with two tackles and no sacks. Shipley was flagged for one false start.
"I felt pretty good," said Shipley, who had previously made five starts at center. "I'm sure there will be some mistakes. It was a good front seven. I felt pretty good, but it's never good enough when you don't win."
After a heated confrontation in September where Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor smacked Rice in the head and accused him of spitting on him, there was no altercation this time.
“After the game, he came up to me and shook my hand,” Taylor said. “It was good.”
Taylor decked Rice for a three-yard loss in the second quarter.
When asked if he was trying to injure Rice, Taylor replied: “No, man, I was just trying to get him to the ground.”
Sack streak continues
The Ravens' defense has built an impressive pass rushing streak.
With linebackers Terrell Suggs and Daryl Smith both recording sacks by halftime, the Ravens have now gone 16 consecutive games with at least two sacks.
It's the longest active streak in the NFL.
Tucker on a roll
Ever since kicker Justin Tucker missed a pair of field goals against the Browns on Sept. 15, he's been perfect.
Tucker has now connected on his last 14 field goal attempts and has hit 16 of 18 overall this season.
With a 51-yard field goal in the first quarter Sunday, Tucker is 6 for 7 for his career from kicks 50 yards and beyond.
The Ravens scratched running back Bernard Scott for today's game against the Cleveland Browns. Scott, who signed a one-year, $715,000 contract last week, has been getting up to speed on the playbook. … The Ravens also deactivated safety Brynden Trawick, offensive guard Kelechi Osemele, who's not expected to play again this season due to a back condition that will likely require surgery, center Ryan Jensen (foot surgery), wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin), defensive end DeAngelo Tyson and outside linebacker John Simon. … Backup nose tackle Terrence Cody was active for the first time since spraining his left knee during the third game of the season and finished with two tackles.