With the Ravens having their four-game winning streak snapped in a 33-31 defeat to Cleveland on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Jerome Ford and the Browns deserve credit for being the more physical team, but one of the staples of this Ravens defense had been its tackling prior to Sunday’s major struggles in that department. Pro Football Focus charted 11 missed tackles, and it felt like even more than that.
2. You hope Ronnie Stanley doesn’t miss too much time after hurting the same right knee he injured in Week 1, but Morgan Moses sitting again despite practicing fully last week was also unsettling. You wonder if that shoulder is going to remain a real problem the rest of the way.
3. The offense’s late-game hibernation began late in the third quarter after Lamar Jackson found a wide-open Mark Andrews for 36 yards. Baltimore gained just 24 yards on their final 18 plays after that while also committing three offensive penalties. That’s certainly not how you finish ballgames.
4. Quarterbacks often get too much credit in victory and too much blame in defeat, but the Ravens need Jackson to elevate his play when a game like this starts going sideways. Passer rating isn’t everything, but he’s been at his worst in the fourth quarter over the last two seasons.
5. Cleveland had as many third-down conversions on the game’s final drive as the Ravens offense had for the entire game — two. In contrast, the Baltimore defense surrendered a first down on nine of the 18 third- and fourth-down plays the Browns ran. That explained the difference in time of possession.
6. Good things tend to happen when Kyle Hamilton is playing the nickel in this defense. His batted interception return for a touchdown was a spectacular way to start Sunday’s game and Baltimore’s first Pick-6 since Chuck Clark victimized Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford in Week 17 of the 2021 season.
7. Though other factors contributed to the middle-of-the-field issuesbeyond the return of Marcus Williams, his tackling ability has to be much better if Baltimore is going to continue deploying him as an every-down safety. You can’t tell me the pectoral injury sustained in the opener isn’t hindering him considerably.
8. You almost had to feel sorry for Cleveland defensive backs Grant Delpit and Martin Emerson as they realized they hadn’t taken the proper angle to catch Keaton Mitchell on his 39-yard touchdown run. It’s a shame he couldn’t corral the end-zone pass, but his speed is something else.
9. Asked why Mitchell played little in the second half, John Harbaugh said it was “kind of the way it went as far as the play calling.” Perhaps he’s still learning the intricacies of the offense, but Mitchell is averaging 13.9 yards per touch. He needs to be out there more.
10. Seeing Zay Flowers more involved in downfield routes was an encouraging development despite Jackson missing on a deep ball to the wide-open Flowers a few plays before Justin Tucker’s 55-yard field goal try was blocked. In 10 games, Flowers has already tied Torrey Smith’s franchise rookie record for receptions (50).
11. Deshaun Watson has fallen well short of playing up to his contract thus far, but his second-half performance was reminiscent of the way the late Steve McNair used to frustrate Baltimore’s pass rush. His legs really made up for Cleveland being without its top three offensive tackles on Sunday.
12. A win over Cincinnati on Thursday leaves Harbaugh’s team in excellent shape, but it’s time to stop dismissing Cleveland’s chances of winning the AFC North. The Browns are 6-3 and have a remaining schedule that’s more favorable than what the Ravens or Bengals will encounter the rest of the way.