Early sput­ters keep worry about Ravens ‘O’ fresh

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - Peter Sch­muck peter.sch­muck@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Sch­muck­S­top Read more from Sch­muck on his blog, “The Sch­muck Stops Here,” at bal­ti­more­sun.com/schmuck­blog and fol­low him @sch­muck­s­top on Twit­ter.

What ex­actly were the fans to do while the Ravens stum­bled through the first half of a game that just about any other di­vi­sion-lead­ing team would al­ready have un­der con­trol?

Well, some of them booed, and who re­ally could blame them?

The Ravens have been look­ing for some sem­blance of of­fen­sive con­sis­tency all sea­son long, and if ever they were go­ing to find it, you would­think that would­have hap­pened pretty quickly against the only win­less team in the NFL.

But no, not for a while. Joe Flacco & Co. took the field against the woe­ful Cleve­land Browns and their 31st-ranked de­fense and man­aged to score just six points on a pair of Justin Tucker field goals. They went into in­ter­mis­sion trail­ing 7-6 to the team that good for­tune for­got.

Of course, you’d never know that by the fi­nal score. The Ravens got their groove back late in the game and — in a du­bi­ous sense — so did the Browns.

But Thurs­day night’s game fig­ured to be the Ravens’ fifth vic­tory. They came in as a dou­ble-digit fa­vorite in spite of the var­i­ous is­sues that sent them into the four-game los­ing streak that ended with Sun­day’s vic­tory over the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers.

This game was about con­tin­u­ing to play strong de­fense and es­tab­lish­ing some of­fen­sive rhythm be­fore get­ting 10 days to pre­pare for their next game against the Dal­las Cow­boys. In­stead, they came out of the locker room look­ing a lot more like the four-straight­loss team than the one that played three strong quar­ters against Pitts­burgh.

Ev­ery­one seemed to agree that they had to win, but they also needed to show that they were build­ing some mo­men­tum for the sec­ond half of a reg­u­lar-sea­son sched­ule that fig­ures to be a lot tougher than the first.

The first half ended with the sec­ond Ravens field goal and their 17th straight pos­ses­sion with­out an of­fen­sive touch­down.

They rushed for 50 yards, and Flacco com­pleted17 of 24passes for133 yards, but the sum of their first-half ef­fort was less than the parts, which was pretty muchin keep­ing with a sea­son-long nar­ra­tive that sug­gests they will have to chan­nel one of their his­toric de­fenses of the past to get to the play­offs.

When they fi­nally woke up and ended that long TD drought on their first pos­ses­sion of the third quar­ter, they ac­tu­ally looked like the of­fen­sive unit they have al­ways as­pired to be. Flacco made some big throws, in­clud­ing a Ravens wide re­ceiver Steve Smith Sr. misses a deep pass from quar­ter­back Joe Flacco in front of the Browns’ Briean Bod­dyCal­houn in the first quar­ter. nice touch­down strike over the mid­dle to tight end Dar­ren Waller.

Even that didn’t come cheap. Rookie left guard Alex Lewis went down dur­ing the scor­ing play with an an­kle in­jury that re­quired him to be carted off the field and may re­quire him to miss sig­nif­i­cant time down the stretch.

The Browns did morph back into their nor­mal selves, quickly turn­ing the ball back over and giv­ing the Ravens an­other scor­ing op­por­tu­nity, but the Ravens handed back that burst of mo­men­tum, too.

Flacco went for the end zone and threw his sec­ond in­ter­cep­tion of the game, giv­ing a na­tional tele­vi­sion au­di­ence a bit­ter taste of what Ravens fans have seen too of­ten this sea­son.

Flacco is one of just four NFLquar­ter­backs who have more in­ter­cep­tions (10) than touch­down passes (nine) this sea­son, but he had to feel good about the way he closed out this game with three sec­ond-half TD passes.

Still, what was ob­vi­ous as the out­come of the game be­came more cer­tain late in the third quar­ter was that the Ravens were very for­tu­nate to be play­ing a team as vul­ner­a­ble as the Browns … and that they still have a lot of work to do over the next 10 days if they want to keep mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion in Texas.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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