The victory did not wipe away fundamental concerns about the 2013 Ravens.
A boisterous tone prevailed in the Ravens' postgame locker room, understandable given that the team had evened its record at 1-1.
There was plenty to be happy about, from a fierce pass rush to improved secondary play to the birth of Joe Flacco's second child an hour before the game started.
And yet, the Ravens did little to answer some of the most vexing questions that emerged during the preseason and an ugly opening loss to the Denver Broncos.
They neither attacked the Browns deep nor produced consistent gains on the ground. Ray Rice hurt his hip, potentially costing Flacco another of his most trusted targets. Two weeks into their Super Bowl defense, the Ravens remain a team searching for its offensive identity.
They spent last week framing this as an important comeback game. Players and coaches talked about how eager they were to return to practice after their opening shellacking in Denver. They promised to fix mistakes in scheming and execution. Facing the Browns, to whom they've never lost under John Harbaugh, seemed the perfect scenario.
Only it wasn't, at least not in the first half.
The offensive line couldn't create running room for Ray Rice or Bernard Pierce and allowed the Browns to pressure Flacco without blitzing. Flacco continued to look out of sync with his revamped receiving corps. The secondary again lost an opposing tight end, this time Jordan Cameron, for a big play to set up a score.
It was an astoundingly flat opening for a team that seemed so primed to play.
Though the Ravens showed resilience in coming back to win, it was hard to escape the feeling they would've been in deep trouble against a better opponent. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun /September 15, 2013)
When the Ravens' offense lines up Sunday against the Houston Texans, coach John Harbaugh expects to see free safety Ed Reed patrolling the middle of the secondary against his old football team.
Although Reed underwent offseason hip surgery after signing a three-year, $15 million contract in March to join the Texans and has missed the first two games, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year has been practicing for the past two weeks.
"We'll have to assume that he's going to play," Harbaugh said. "We'd be surprised if he didn't play in this game, and we'll have to assume that he's going to play the way he's played in the past."
Texans coach Gary Kubiak told Houston reporters Monday that Reed has been running full-speed in practice for two consecutive weeks and was extremely close to playing last weekend against the Tennessee Titans.
"We're going to listen to him, I say he's doing great," Kubiak said. "I think we're at a point right now where he's really strong in his movements and what he's doing and when he's ready to go, it's time to go. The arrow is pointing way up right now."
If Reed does play, it could change the complexion of the game by injecting one of the most instinctive safeties in NFL history into Sunday's matchup. Reed, 35, is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and the NFL's all-time active leader with 61 interceptions for 1,506 interception return yards.
The Ravens won't have the benefit of having studied Reed playing for his new team. They do have extensive knowledge of his habits, including a penchant for gambling to make big plays and baiting quarterbacks into miscues.
"It's going to be like it was for other teams game-planning against us in the past," Harbaugh said. "It's a little tougher because we haven't seen him on tape, so we really don't know how he fits into their defense. We'll have to fit him into their scheme, which in a lot of ways is similar to what we've done here.
"It shouldn't be too hard to figure out where he's going to be. We'll just kind of envision him out there playing the way he's played for us all of those years."
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