Cleveland Browns: Ray Rice

T.J. Ward and Joe FlaccoUSA Today SportsThe Browns and T.J. Ward will try to snap an 11-game series slide against the Ravens and Joe Flacco.
The Baltimore Ravens have won 11 games in a row over the Cleveland Browns. That number is a measure not only of how good the Ravens have been since 2007 — the last time the Browns won in this series — but also how badly the Browns have struggled.

That 11-game win streak also is the longest current streak of regular-season wins by one team against another, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

By ending that streak, the Browns would make a statement about themselves and their status in the AFC North. But the Ravens realize they will need to start righting themselves if they wish to have a chance to defend their Super Bowl title. Let’s look ahead to the game with Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley and Browns reporter Pat McManamon.

Pat McManamon: The Ravens won the first game between these teams this season, in Week 2, and since then the Browns have started three different quarterbacks. What about the Ravens has changed since the first time these teams met?

Jamison Hensley: Pat, the problem for the Ravens is what hasn't changed. A big reason Baltimore is sitting at 3-4 is its inability to run the ball. The Ravens averaged 2.8 yards per rush against the Browns in Week 2, and they have averaged a league-worst 2.8 yards per rush for the season.

Ray Rice injured his hip in the fourth quarter against the Browns, and he really hasn't looked healthy since. But Rice has a great track record when playing in Cleveland. It's like his home turf, based on the results. In five games there, Rice has averaged 127.4 yards rushing. His worst game was 89 yards.

Is there any shot of Rice getting back on track against the Browns?

McManamon: The Browns are pretty good against the run. They give up 103.6 yards per game, good for 12th in the league. Three opponents have rushed for fewer than 100 yards, and last week they held the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles, second in the NFL in rushing yards this season, to 74 yards. That being said, if anyone is going to bust loose against the Browns, it would be Rice. He seems to salivate when he plays the Browns, especially in Cleveland -- where he's had games of 154, 89, 92, 204 and 98 yards in the last five seasons.

Let's flip to the passing game, Jamison. In his first start, Jason Campbell was surprisingly effective against the Chiefs' pass rush. He was able to make his reads and get rid of the ball in a hurry. Do you anticipate the Ravens coming up with anything to take advantage of Campbell, who is on his fourth team in eight seasons?

Hensley: The Ravens were impressed by Campbell, but they were more impressed by the Browns' offensive line, which allowed just one sack against the Chiefs. Baltimore will find out if Cleveland's pass protection will hold up for a second week. The Ravens will likely use the same aggressive game plan that resulted in five sacks of Brandon Weeden in the earlier meeting with the Browns.

In addition to Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil coming off the edges, the Ravens generated pressure by blitzing up the middle. Where the Ravens will really test Campbell is on third down. Baltimore has recorded 10 sacks on third down this season, fifth-most in the NFL. The last time the Ravens faced Campbell as a starter was 2008, but only two Ravens defensive starters from that game (Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata) remain on the team.

The bigger concern for the Ravens has been their inability to protect Joe Flacco. Has the Browns' pass rush lived up to expectations so far?

McManamon: In general, no, but last Sunday, yes. The Browns got six sacks against a pretty mobile quarterback in Alex Smith. The catch is that whereas defensive coordinator Ray Horton went after Smith, he dialed back the blitzes the previous two weeks when he faced Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers. The Browns have guys who can bring pressure in Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor, Paul Kruger (even with his low sack total) and rookie Barkevious Mingo. But against Green Bay and Detroit, Horton played coverage. Flacco isn't mobile, but he is smart and he's won a Super Bowl. It will be intriguing to see whether the Browns go after him or sit back.

Kruger is one of the departed Ravens from last season's Super Bowl champs. Which of those guys who left -- including the retired Ray Lewis -- do they miss the most?

Hensley: The Ravens haven't really missed Lewis on the field. Daryl Smith, who replaced the longtime face of the franchise, has been the defense's top playmaker. The top four players that the Ravens miss the most (in no particular order) are wide receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Ed Reed, safety Bernard Pollard and center Matt Birk.

Boldin was a difference-maker on third down and in the red zone, two areas where the offense has struggled this season. Teams would likely take fewer deep shots if Reed were playing center field, and there's less of an intimidation factor on defense without Pollard. The biggest surprise is how much the Ravens have struggled without Birk. In his first season as the starting center, Gino Gradkowski is getting pushed back too often.

Speaking of changes, the Ravens didn't have to face wide receiver Josh Gordon last month because he was serving his two-game suspension. Can his impact change the Browns' fortunes against the Ravens?

McManamon: Of course. Gordon is a talent. A big-time talent. At just 22, he’s second in the league in yards per catch, and every touchdown pass in his career has been for at least 20 yards. It’s no secret that the offense opened up for Brian Hoyer, in part because Hoyer played but also because he had Gordon back. That said, not even Gordon can overcome bad quarterbacking. He struggled when Weeden had his second chance because Weeden struggled. Campbell got him back in the offense. Baltimore must respect him.


Browns links: Browns initiated trade

September, 20, 2013
In case you missed it, the Cleveland Browns signed running back Willis McGahee to a one-year contract to replace Trent Richardson, and quarterback Brandon Weeden won't need surgery on his injured right thumb, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Here's what is also happening on the Browns beat:
  • The Browns initiated the trade that sent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts. According to The Akron Beacon Journal, the deal came together when Browns CEO Joe Banner began talking to Colts general manager Ryan Grigson about Richardson on Tuesday. “[Richardson was] mentioned, and we went right to work on it and did our due diligence on the Colts’ end and really liked the player,” Grigson said during a news conference. “I’ve always liked the player, and when it became a possibility, we had to at least investigate it.”
  • Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson told The Plain Dealer that the Browns haven't given up on the season even though the team traded its best offensive player. "(N)ot for one minute does anyone in this locker room think that we're not trying to win now," Jackson said. "We're good on the defensive side of the ball, we've got some areas where we all can improve on and we've just got to get the first one to create some winning around here."
  • The Plain Dealer's Bud Shaw believes the Browns are contradicting themselves to the fans. "In explaining how Brian Hoyer vaulted Jason Campbell -- going from inactive to starter -- Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Hoyer gives the team its best chance to win," Shaw wrote. "Likewise, can we conclude Willis McGahee or Chris Ogbonnaya or Bobby Rainey gives the Browns a better chance of winning than Trent Richardson? Not even the Browns can go there with a straight face."
  • Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said nose guard Phil Taylor told him that Baltimore Ravens halfback Ray Rice did spit in his face Sunday. Taylor, who would not confirm the incident to reporters after the game, drew a 15-yard penalty for slapping Rice in the helmet after the players were face to face. “All I know is what my player said to me, and I trust my players and we just moved on,” Horton said, via The Plain Dealer.

Rapid Reaction: Ravens 14, Browns 6

September, 15, 2013

BALTIMORE -- A few thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 14-6 win against the Cleveland Browns:

What it means: On the day the Ravens unveiled their Super Bowl banner, they looked far from champions but they played well enough in the second half to beat the Browns. Down 6-0 at halftime, the Ravens converted timely third downs on offense and sacked Brandon Weeden five times in the second half. It was a sloppy start for the Ravens, who watched rookie receiver Marlon Brown drop a touchdown and kicker Justin Tucker miss two field goals. Joe Flacco, whose wife delivered their second son an hour before kickoff, finished 22-of-33 for 211 yards and one touchdown. The Browns fall to 0-2 for the fifth time in six seasons.

Ray Rice injured: The Ravens running back injured his left hip with 11:57 left in the game and didn't return. He went down to the ground without being hit. Rice gained 36 yards on 13 carries before getting hurt. He also had a fumble early in the fourth quarter. Bernard Pierce, who scored the go-ahead 5-yard touchdown, replaced Rice.

Weeden hurt: He injured his thumb late in the fourth quarter. He was listed as questionable to return, but he didn't come back into the game. Weeden was 21-of-33 for 227 yards and was sacked five times. Jason Campbell replaced him with the Browns trailing 14-6.

Stock watch: Rising: Baltimore's pass rush. Five Ravens got at least a half sack on Weeden as the quarterback got hit from all angles. Falling: Cleveland's offense. The Browns were shut out in the second half, and the closest the Browns got to the end zone after halftime was the Ravens' 36-yard line. Former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff supplied all of their points on field goals from 21 and 51 yards.

Critical stop: The biggest stop by the Ravens came on fourth-and-4 on the first play of the fourth quarter. With the Ravens up 7-6, linebacker Courtney Upshaw held tight end Jordan Cameron less than inch away from converting a first down. The Browns' drive ended at the Ravens' 36.

What's next: The Ravens (1-1) play host to Ed Reed and the Houston Texans on Sunday, and the Browns (0-2) go to the Minnesota Vikings.