Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 28-7 win over the Cleveland Browns

1.) We know who the Ravens are now, and at least they'll play meaningful games in December.

The Ravens won a game by more than a touchdown for the first time since the 2014 season. But more importantly than that, we can finally say this team has an identity, flawed though it may be.


Even against the pitiful, winless Browns, the Ravens struggled to finish drives too often. Though the offense finally took off in the second half, the Ravens' self-destructiveness might haunt them against the better opponents they'll face, starting with the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 20.

But they're also built to compete with anyone because of a defense that thrives at all three levels of the field. The Ravens forced three turnovers, sacked Browns quarterbacks four times and allowed 37 yards in the second half.


"That was one for the memories," safety Eric Weddle said between celebratory whoops in his post-game press conference.

Cleveland coach Hue Jackson said that in watching film, he saw the Ravens recapturing their defensive aura of old. He had to feel that doubly after watching Terrell Suggs and Co. annihilate his offense in the flesh.

Three weeks ago, after a loss to the unimpressive New York Jets, the Ravens appeared to be sliding toward 2015 territory. We can now safely say they're not, in part because of that defense, in part because of improved health and in part because they're playing in the AFC North, which is the weakest it has been in recent memory.

The Ravens had gone 17 possessions without an offensive touchdown, a span of more than 77 minutes in football time that felt far longer to the fans who booed

It's too early to compare this group to John Harbaugh's best teams, because the offense is a work in progress. And that might be putting it kindly.


But unless the Ravens fall apart completely, they'll be in the hunt for a division title the first week in December. And when you think about how far gone they were at this point in 2015, that's genuine progress.

2.) This game captured the madness of Joe Flacco.

It feels crass to bring the conversation back to Flacco's contract every season. But the Ravens are wedded to their quarterback for salary cap hits of at least $22 million each year through 2021. That means he is, by definition, their franchise player.

And yet by almost any statistical measure, Flacco was one of the 10 worst quarterbacks in the league going into the game. He had not managed a quarterback rating better than 83.7 in any game since the opener and was on pace for a season total of 12 touchdowns.

He looked like that player until early in the third quarter Thursday, combining errant downfield attempts with inexplicable throws into heavy coverage.

"It's a lonely position when you make mistakes that hurt your team's chances to win," he said after the game.

Part of the problem was certainly a battered offensive line that was further decimated by rookie Alex Lewis' ankle injury against the Browns.

With the Ravens seemingly ready to put the Browns away in the third quarter, Flacco scrambled away from pressure and tried to force a pass into the end zone. The resulting interception was his second of the game and ninth of the season.

And then he got hot, aided by a halftime decision to speed up the offense's tempo. He threw three touchdown passes in an 18-minute span— increasing his season total by 50 percent — and completed passes to nine players. He even performed a silly touchdown celebration that was the talk of his post-game press conference.

This shouldn't surprise anyone who's studied Flacco the last nine years. Just when you're about write him off as an expensive albatross, he plays two brilliant quarters and leads the Ravens to victory. He never gets too high or too low on himself, and as it happens, that's also the only sensible way to watch him.

3.) It's still a bad sign the Ravens allowed the Browns to be competitive as long as they were.

The Browns began the game with a timeout because they had 12 men on the field. They blew another one on their first offensive possession because the play clock was about to run out.

This was a team living down to its 0-9 record and yet the Ravens could not build an early lead.

It's astounding how often their offense shoots itself in the foot.

In the first quarter, Flacco was sacked for 9-yard loss on third down to knock the Ravens out of field-goal range. Neither Lewis nor tight end Dennis Pitta picked up blitzing linebacker Jamie Collins on the play.

The next time the Ravens threatened to score, Steve Smith gave up on an overthrown Flacco pass, allowing Browns cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun to run the ball down for an uncontested interception.

Against a defense that came in 31st in the NFL against the run and 23rd against the pass, the Ravens moved the ball better than they had the previous week but could not finish a single first-half drive in the end zone.

It took the Ravens some time to get warmed up, but they finally put the Clev

"Listen, we had room out there in the first half too," Flacco said. "I think we ran the ball well, and when we make mistakes, it kind of puts you in a bad mood."

Against the Browns, they got away with it. Against the Cowboys or the New England Patriots, they might not.

4.) C.J. Mosley has quietly played more consistent football this year.

Though you wouldn't necessarily guess it from his five tackles, none for losses, Mosley was again one of the team's best all-around players against the Browns.

The third-year linebacker hasn't made as many tackles as he did his rookie year and hasn't been as active a pass rusher as he was in 2015.

But he's almost always in the right position against the run and in pass coverage, and the Ravens were noticeably more vulnerable in the middle of the field in the two October games he missed because of a hamstring injury.

Jackson praised Mosley as one of the best players in the league in a conference call with Baltimore-area reporters early in the week.

"Why do I say that?" Jackson said. "Because he makes so many standout plays. He is always around the ball. He is making plays on backs, he is making plays on receivers, he is getting his hands on balls, and he is chasing balls down. He is just a tremendous football player."

5) Terrell Suggs is burnishing his Hall of Fame resume.

Suggs was the first to say he did not feel or look like himself early in the season, when he was still working to overcome the torn Achilles that ended his 2015 season. He struggled to get near opposing quarterbacks in pass-rushing situations and reacted sluggishly to runs in his direction.

When he tore his left biceps in an Oct. 16 loss to the New York Giants, skeptics might have wondered if the 34-year-old was nearing his end as a productive player.

But Suggs came back Sunday with a bulky brace on his arm. And though he's playing in obvious pain, he produced his best game of the season against the Browns with a sack, a forced fumble and another quarterback hit that led to an interception.

Weddle recalled how he challenged Suggs to make a game-clinching play midway through the fourth quarter. A few moments later, Suggs sacked McCown and forced the ball from his grasp.


"Sizz is a once-in-a-generation-type player," Weddle said. "You just can't replicate what he brings."


Harbaugh couldn't wait to watch Suggs again on tape. "As great a leader as he is, he's an even better football player," he said.

Suggs can't dismantle offenses play after play as he did when he was 25. But he can still do it a few times a game, which is remarkable given his physical state.

It's easy to drift into cliche when rhapsodizing about a football player's toughness. But this is a guy who made his reputation and his fortune long ago. He doesn't have to play through the pain that will stab at him the remainder of this season. He chooses to chase greatness.