Ravens Built to Beat The Browns

The Cleveland Browns come into Baltimore this week and face a Ravens team that is fresh of a loss to a potent Kansas City Chiefs team. Though the Ravens made it a game in the fourth quarter, much like their playoff loss, they fell behind early and even with a stellar effort by Lamar Jackson just couldn’t catch back up. The Ravens outscored the Chiefs in the second half 22-10 by making a key adjustment to their offense at halftime.

The Ravens came out throwing in the first half in an attempt to try and keep pace with the explosive Chiefs offense. Jackson had shown accuracy and poise in the previous games and I am sure the Ravens coaching staff felt he could continue to be as productive. But it became painfully obvious that Jackson was not on top of his passing game in the first half and after a Chiefs 20-0 stretch in the second quarter, the Ravens were down 27-6.

In their press conferences this week both Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram made mention to the game plan change the Ravens made at halftime. When pressed by the media Lamar made it clear the breakdown was that they got away from what they were good at, what they did the first two games, which is run the ball. Mark Ingram reiterated that basically saying that the big change in the second half was because they ran the ball. After halftime, in the next drive, the Ravens ran 9 times in the scoring drive that opened the second half and continued, as much as possible, to press the running game. Of course, at times, they had to throw the ball.

The Cleveland Browns have a very strong pass rush. With Myles Garrett and company, they can make a quarterback’s day very unproductive. The Browns have a top 10 defense against the pass and with their secondary depleted by injury a lot of that success is on the back of the pass rush. However, they rank 15th against the run and with the Ravens top ranked rushing offense, clearly the Ravens will be able to run the ball. One thing about a pass rush is that you can slow it down by running and you can also slow it down with play action. Both things the Ravens are exceptionally good at. Once that rush and those linebackers are focused on stopping Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson and those safeties start creeping towards the line of scrimmage, Lamar Jackson can now complete those intermediate and long passes down the field to Mark Andrews and Marquis Brown. Coincidentally, the same receivers who helped Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield get his Heisman. With a depleted secondary and the rush on hold due to the Ravens pounding the ball, the Ravens should be able to strike downfield at will, once the run game gets going.

The Ravens used this formula to win the first two weeks of the season and I have to believe the coaching staff also believes they can run against the Browns. The RPO will be critical to stop Myles Garrett from lowering his head and forcing his will on blockers, he will have to be more conscious of the edge and over-running plays. Play action will freeze the linebackers and slow the rush, especially as successful as the ground game will be. The Ravens rushing attack will easily pass 200 yards from scrimmage and Jackson will easily throw for 250 yards as the Ravens control the clock, keep Mayfield and crew off the field and frustrate their star receivers who have a way of losing focus when they aren’t successful.

Our defense will be well rested by controlling the clock and after working on their communication and getting the younger guys up to speed, will be able to snag some balls this week and it is critical to have Marlon Humphrey, who was limited in practice Friday, to cover Odell Beckham all over the field. Earl Thomas needs to be in the back of the defense more and Tony Jefferson needs to be the enforcer on the line of scrimmage. The Ravens had a bit of a leaky front line last week but that was the product of the Chiefs passing game that kept them off guard much like the Ravens hope to do to the Browns this week, only with play action. The Browns offensive line is banged up and porous and the Ravens lead the league in hits on quarterback. Mayfield could be in for a painful day.

I think this Ravens team was built to beat these Browns. The loss of Jimmy Smith throws a wrench in the works, but with the Ravens running attack slowing down the strength of the Browns the Ravens offense will be able to score at will. This game could end up looking a lot like the Chiefs game but in reverse. I look for the Ravens to get out to an early lead and be leading by at least two touchdowns at the half. The Browns will come back firing but Mayfield’s inaccuracy due to the pass rush will lead to several picks and the game will win end up in one of two scenarios. Either the Ravens offense has the ball at the end of the game and closes it out much like they did against the Cardinals (or the Chiefs did to them) or like last year, Mayfield throws a pick on a critical fourth quarter drive to end the game. Either way, Baltimore wins.

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