Monday, September 16, 2013
Ravens report card vs. Browns
By Jamison Hensley
Grading the Baltimore Ravens in their 14-6 win against the Cleveland Browns:
Quarterback: Joe Flacco played his best in the second half, when he was more decisive on his throws and came up big on third downs. It wasn't a matter of him being distracted by the birth of his second son before the game. He just stopped throwing those jump balls downfield. It wasn't an electric performance. But it was an efficient and winning one. Grade: B.
Running backs: Another tough day for the backs, who didn't get much running room up front. Outside of a 14-yard run early in the second half, Ray Rice didn't show much explosion. He also fumbled before leaving with a hip injury. Backup Bernard Pierce ran hard, leading the team in rushing yards (57) and broken tackles. Grade: C-minus.
Wide receivers/tight ends: Torrey Smith carried the Ravens' offense in the first half with half of the team's catches by working the middle of the field. Rookie Marlon Brown didn't sulk after dropping a touchdown pass in the first half and had a strong second half, which included a five-yard touchdown. The wide receivers, though, still need to get more consistent separation. Even though the Ravens again didn't get much from the tight end position, Ed Dickson was an integral blocker. He drove back Jabaal Sheard on Pierce's five-yard touchdown run. Grade: B-minus.
Offensive line: The line gave Flacco time in the pocket but didn't open up holes for Rice and Pierce. The interior of the line held up much better than the tackles. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie whiffed several times in the run game and got beat by Barkevious Mingo for a sack on the rookie's first defensive play in the NFL. Right tackle Michael Oher couldn't get much push because of an ankle injury, but played far better than anyone the Ravens could have put there. Grade: C.
Defensive line: There were times when the Ravens' front got pushed back more than they would've liked, but this group accomplished its main goal: contain Browns running back Trent Richardson. He averaged 3.2 yards per carry and didn't break a run longer than nine yards. The most impressive player was Arthur Jones, who got a sack and some other pressures with his bull-rush. It was his first game of the season after missing time with an irregular heartbeat. Grade: B.
Linebackers: Terrell Suggs won his matchup with Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, and Elvis Dumervil dominated right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. They combined for two sacks and six quarterback hits. This overshadowed the performance of Daryl Smith, who led the team with 11 tackles and played well in coverage (although he should have held on to a potential interception). Courtney Upshaw came up big on a fourth-down tackle of Jordan Cameron in the fourth quarter. Grade: A.
Secondary: The defensive backs allowed too many receivers to get open once again, and a better quarterback would have made them pay more. Still, Jimmy Smith had a solid showing in the second half and got his hand on two passes. Even though he missed one tackle, Lardarius Webb remains one of the best tackling cornerbacks and finished with nine stops. Rookie safety Matt Elam had trouble with Cameron on the Browns' first play of the game, but he rebounded well and was physical when dropping into the box. Grade: C-plus.
Special teams: There was the good: Tandon Doss surprisingly made plays on punt returns, averaging 14.3 yards. Then there was the bad: Justin Tucker missed two field goals in nearly identical fashion, hitting wide right from 50 and 44 yards. The Ravens' punt coverage team held dangerous returner Travis Benjamin (4.8-yard average) in check. Grade: B-minus.