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MIKE PRESTON

It took a while, but the Ravens finally dominated

The Ravens couldn't afford to lose to the Cleveland Browns, so they took care of business Thursday.

It took the Ravens some time to get warmed up, but they finally put the Cleveland Browns away in the second half with two touchdowns in the third period.

The first half wasn't what most expected, but it's the end result that matters. The Ravens finally put away a bad football team, and it didn't take them until the last play of game to secure the victory.

It's nothing to brag about that the Ravens routed the Browns, but imagine if they had lost.

This looked like another one of those bad Thursday night games complete with awful uniforms, but the Ravens made some adjustments offensively at halftime.

That doesn't happen often.

In the first half the Browns took the long passes away, so the Ravens killed them with the underneath stuff and crossing routes after intermission. The Ravens also showed a little imagination on offense. They flooded zones with receivers and ran several waggle pass plays. They pulled offensive linemen during running plays, including left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

It was against the Browns, but at least there were some improvements from earlier in the season.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco continues to struggle and had two interceptions that halted drives, and you get the impression there isn't going to be a magical turnaround anytime soon.

But at least the Ravens won.

A loss by the Ravens would have been devastating, not just as far as their record, but to the team's psyche. Only several days ago the team had beaten Pittsburgh to tie the Steelers for first place in the AFC North.

In Cleveland, the Ravens faced a team with a first-year coach in Hue Jackson. Before Thursday night's game, the Browns had won only one of their previous 20 and were 0-9 this season.

The Brown also had NFL's second-worst defense in terms of yards allowed per game. Their offense was better, but Cleveland was still in the second half of NFL team rankings in total offense (341 yards per game) and pass offense (234.7).

To make matters worse, 28 of the Browns' 53 players on their roster have two or fewer years experience, including 19 rookies.

But now the Ravens have some wiggle room and some time to heal from playing two games in five days. They have 10 days to get ready for Dallas, one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

They also have won two games in a row, and it's important for this team to start stacking wins, and hopefully gain more momentum heading into the final seven games of the season.

The Ravens' defense played well again, and their front seven dominated. The secondary is still slow, but at least this group can be competitive, especially with a young cornerback such as Tavon Young.

Those injuries to the offensive line are starting to become more of a concern. Right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) didn't play Thursday night, and left guard Alex Lewis left the game early with an ankle injury. Stanley's legs look tired and center Jeremy Zuttah has struggled all season.

But overall, the Ravens did what they had to do. They got a lead in the second half, and rode the legs of their running backs to victory in the fourth period. That's the way good teams should put away an opponent, even if it's the Cleveland Browns.

Next up are the Cowboys, who will be a much tougher test for the Ravens. But the Ravens will worry about that next week. They won Thursday night, and have put two wins together for the first time since September.

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