Fi­nally, the Ravens dom­i­nated

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - Mike Pre­ston mike.pre­ston@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/MikePre­stonSun

It took the Ravens some time to get warmed up, but they fi­nally put the Cleve­land Browns away in the sec­ond half with two touch­downs in the third pe­riod.

The first half wasn’t what most ex­pected, but it’s the end re­sult that mat­ters. The Ravens fi­nally put away a bad foot­ball team, and it didn’t take them un­til the last play of game to se­cure the vic­tory.

It’s noth­ing to brag about that the Ravens routed the Browns, but imag­ine if they had lost.

This looked like an­other one of those bad Thurs­day night games com­plete with aw­ful uni­forms, but the Ravens made some ad­just­ments of­fen­sively at half­time. That doesn’t hap­pen of­ten. In the first half the Browns took the long passes away, so the Ravens killed them with the un­der­neath stuff and cross­ing routes af­ter in­ter­mis­sion. The Ravens also showed a lit­tle imag­i­na­tion on of­fense. They flooded zones with re­ceivers and ran sev­eral wag­gle pass plays. They pulled of­fen­sive line­men dur­ing run­ning plays, in­clud­ing left tackle Ron­nie Stan­ley.

It was against the Browns, but at least there were some im­prove­ments from ear­lier in the sea­son.

Ravens quar­ter­back Joe Flacco con­tin­ues to strug­gle and had two in­ter­cep­tions that halted drives, and left the im­pres­sion that there isn’t go­ing to be a mag­i­cal turn­around any time soon.

But at least the Ravens won. Ravens safety Lar­dar­ius Webb, left, cel­e­brates his sack of Browns quar­ter­back Cody Kessler in the first quar­ter of Thurs­day night’s game. Next to Kessler is Ravens line­backer Zachary Orr.

A loss by the Ravens would have been dev­as­tat­ing, not just to their record, but to the team’s psy­che. Only sev­eral days ago the team had beaten Pitts­burgh to tie the Steel­ers for first place in the AFC North.

In Cleve­land, the Ravens faced a team with a first-year coach in Hue Jack­son. Be­fore Thurs­day night’s game, the Browns had won only one of their pre­vi­ous 20 and were 0-9 this sea­son.

The Browns also had the NFL’s sec­ond­worst de­fense in terms of yards al­lowed per game. Their of­fense was bet­ter, but Cleve­land was still in the sec­ond half of NFL team rank­ings in to­tal of­fense (341 yards per game) and pass of­fense (234.7).

To make mat­ters worse, 28 of the 53 play­ers on the Browns’ have two or fewer years’ ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing 19 rook­ies.

But now the Ravens have some wig­gle room and some time to heal from play­ing two games in five days. They have 10 days to get ready for Dal­las, one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

They also have won two games in a row, and it’s im­por­tant for this team to start stack­ing wins, and hope­fully gain more mo­men­tum head­ing into the fi­nal seven games of the sea­son.

The Ravens’ de­fense played well again, and their front seven dom­i­nated. The sec­ondary is still slow, but at least this group can be com­pet­i­tive, es­pe­cially with a young cor­ner­back such as Tavon Young.

Those in­juries to the of­fen­sive line are start­ing to be­come more of a con­cern. Right guard Mar­shal Yanda (shoul­der) didn’t play Thurs­day night, and left guard Alex Lewis left the game early with an an­kle in­jury. Stan­ley’s legs look tired and cen­ter Jeremy Zut­tah has strug­gled all sea­son.

But over­all, the Ravens did what they had to do. They got a lead in the sec­ond half, and rode the legs of their run­ning backs to vic­tory in the fourth pe­riod. That’s the way good teams should put away an op­po­nent, even if it’s the Cleve­land Browns.

Next up are the Cow­boys, who will be a much tougher test for the Ravens. But the Ravens will worry about that next week. They won Thurs­day night, and have put two wins to­gether for the first time since Septem­ber.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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