Early sputters keep worry about Ravens ‘O’ fresh
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.