Ravens Run Past Browns: 3 Things We Learned
Posted on 12/5/2011 10:05:31 PM
Obviously the biggest story of the Ravens' 24-10 victory over the Browns Sunday is that Baltimore beat its toughest opponent -- themselves -- on the road against a mediocre opponent. But what else did we learn?
1. Even Cam Cameron knows to run the ball against the league's 29th rushing defense
Cleveland ranked 29th in rushing defense at kickoff. After Ray Rice's 204 rushing yards (not to mention Ricky Williams 76 yards), the Browns dropped to 31st. Rain. Mud. The No. 1 passing defense. The No. 29 rushing defense. Yes, even Cameron couldn't miss on this one. Run. Run. And run some more.
In the Ravens' surprising losses to Jacksonville and Seattle, Cameron's game plan didn't seem to account for the fact that Rice is one of the best running backs in the league. Against Jacksonville, Rice carried only eight times, and in Seattle, he had a mind-boggling five carries. In fact in the Ravens three losses, Ray's running attack was limited to 26 rushing attempts. In the win against the Browns, Rice's 204 yards came on 29 carries.
Moving forward, the Ravens run-pass ratio will be more balanced than it was against the Browns, as it should be. The game plan will be drawn out based on location, weather, and most important, the opponent. However, Rice's ability to break out and make big plays only makes the passing game easier on Flacco and Co. Football 101: the run sets up the pass. The threat of Ray Rice must be established for Baltimore to beat opponents, good or bad.
2. The Ravens have recently struggled to convert good drives into touchdowns
Ten days separate a big win against the 49ers from a must-win against the Browns. In both games, the Ravens managed to move the ball down the field. In both games, offensive touchdowns were elusive. Against a competent San Fransisco defense, Baltimore's offense scored one touchdown, and against the dismal Browns, the offense managed to score two.
Forget Billy Cundiff's mishaps (missed field goals in the past several games have the characteristically snappish Baltimore fans calling for the kicker's head.) The point is, Flacco, Rice, and the offense must deliver touchdowns after working their way down the field. The NFL's most ferocious defense has kept points off the board against most opponents this year, but then again, opponents' rosters haven't featured names like Brady, Rodgers, and Brees. If the post-season goes as planned, they will definitely enjoy those opportunities.
3. The Ravens have turned Nicholls into gold
At Nicholls State, Lardarius Webb played saftey. The Ravens had other plans for the 5'10, 182 pound DB. They converted Webb into a corner, and he has unpredictably emerged as the Ravens most effective CB. Despite being undersized, Webb has speed and agility, combined with several years maturity, and these qualities have propelled him to the top of the depth chart. The 3rd-round draft pick suffered an ACL injury as a rookie after moving into a starting role and playing well in 2009. He returned in 2010 at less than 100% and had a solid, but not outstanding year.
Webb was expected to be mostly used as a nickelback in 2011 after the acquisition of Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams and the return of Chris Carr and Dominique Foxworth. In September, Foxworth was placed on Injured Reserve after disappointing preseason performances, Smith suffered a high ankle sprain in week one, and Carr struggled with hamstring issues throughout the first half of the year.
Webb leads the DB corp in tackles (55), interceptions (4), and forced fumbles (1). Not only has he established himself in the secondary, his 68 yard punt return for a touchdown sealed the deal for the Ravens against the Browns. As Jimmy Smith continues to improve, Webb's play is key to the Ravens push for the number one seed in the AFC.
Acknowledgements: A special thank you to my phenomenal "editor," John Langefeld!
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