|The Ravens’ Joe Flacco just might live up to his claim to being one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks. (US Presswire)|
The Baltimore Ravens have had plenty of time to examine what went right and wrong in Thursday’s 23-16 victory over Cleveland. On film, the Ravens had opportunities to put the game away but didn't.
Watching live, Joe Flacco had a good game. But on film, it was spectacular. He’s making throws not many quarterbacks in the NFL can make at this juncture and doing it with not a lot of room. His receivers made plays, which helped mask some of the other offensive deficiencies.
Here is a look at how Baltimore fared upon further review:
What looked good?
- OLB Paul Kruger showed some good pass coverage skills on the fifth play of Cleveland’s first drive. It was a third-down situation, with Browns RB Chris Ogbonnaya coming out of the backfield and running an out route. Kruger recognized the route and read Browns QB Brandon Weeden’s eyes, jumping the pass and nearly making an interception. Kruger’s known more as a pass rusher so the Ravens will welcome any strides made in coverage.
- A lot of Flacco’s deeper throws were made in tight coverage. Not once did Cleveland appear to have a breakdown in coverage and at least had defenders near the deep routes. The difference was Flacco's pinpoint accuracy on a lot of deep throws. On his touchdown throw to WR Torrey Smith, Flacco got the ball over Browns LB Chris Robertson and in between two safeties. There wasn’t a lot of room to spare within the triangle of Browns defenders, which made the throw that much more impressive.
- On third-and-goal from the Baltimore 1, Flacco had a designed play-action quarterback run but wanted to throw a touchdown to TE Dennis Pitta after seeing him come clean off the snap. The play fake to Ray Rice sucked Cleveland’s defense to the middle, leaving Flacco with a lot of space on his bootleg right. But Browns LB Scott Fujita recognized Pitta was free, and dropped back to cover him. With Pitta covered, Flacco elected not to force a throw. RG Marshal Yanda broke off the line of scrimmage to provide the lead block for Flacco. Flacco did have to juke Browns LB Kaluka Maiava slightly before stepping into the end zone. It was a good play design from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and a smart decision by Flacco to run instead of pass.
- On CB Cary Williams’ interception in the third quarter, the defender followed Browns WR Travis Benjamin in motion before the snap. Williams said he had a feeling an out-route was coming, based on the formation. Benjamin didn’t do a good job with his break, rounding his out-route at the arrow on top of the 40-yard line. Almost simultaneous with Benjamin’s foot planting to turn to the sideline, Williams began to jump the route. Weeden threw the pass, which Williams returned 63 yards for a score.
What didn’t look good?
- The pass rush was lackluster live and worse on film. In most cases, if the Ravens had an equal amount of pass rushers to the Browns’ blockers then the Ravens lost. Only DT Haloti Ngata generated a push on his own throughout. Kruger did have one sack but had a tough time getting off blocks.
- The inside linebackers continued to struggle in coverage, failing to decide either to pick up a receiver or to stay in their zone. On Cleveland’s final possession, Ray Lewis was caught guessing where Browns TE Benjamin Watson would be across the middle. He got caught standing as Watson got separation from him on a crossing route and ran up the field for a big gain. On the next play, LB Dannell Ellerbe was caught inside, failing to shore up the outside sideline. Browns WR Jordan Norwood caught a pass on a crossing pattern and turned it up for a first down.
- Although Baltimore’s giving up a lot of yards, it’s remained aggressive through four games. But with the Ravens failing to apply as much pressure as they would like, the Browns had time to have plays develop. In the first quarter, the Browns rolled right and ran a throwback screen to RB Trent Richardson for an 18-yard gain. With Baltimore being aggressive, it's prone to misdirection pass plays. It’s a discipline issue that will need to be cleaned up in the second quarter of the season.
What is inconclusive?
- The offensive line gave up four sacks and six quarterback hits against the Browns. LG Ramon Harewood had the hardest time, getting routinely beat by Browns DL Billy Winn. But the line did have its moments and gave Flacco enough time for plenty of throws. The Browns' defensive front ran plenty of stunts to confuse Harewood and RT Kelechi Osemele, both of whom are first-year starters. The young linemen will need to adjust accordingly in the coming weeks as teams surely will mimic what Cleveland did up front to generate pressure.