|Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin torched the Browns for 131 yards on nine receptions on Thursday night. (US Presswire)|
It would have been extremely difficult for the Ravens to perform at as high of a level as they did previously this year against Cincinnati and New England on Thursday night.
Having defeated the Patriots Sunday night, the Ravens only had four nights of rest before hosting Cleveland. Thursday night games are a tough task for any team, regardless of star power or ability.
Baltimore played far from a perfect game, filled with correctable mistakes that won't be overlooked. But sometimes in games where you're forced to grind it out for four quarters, all it takes is a handful of plays to come away with a win.
With Cleveland electing to take away the run, the Ravens asked Joe Flacco throw the ball 46 times against the Browns' Cover 2 defense. Flacco completed 28 of his passing attempts for 356 yards and a touchdown. He did have an interception in the red zone, due to Browns linebacker Craig Robertson dropping into coverage along the sideline and out of Flacco's viewpoint, before pushing back inside to take away a potential touchdown. The offensive line had some issues against an underrated Cleveland front seven, giving up four sacks and six quarterback hits.
Previous game's grade: B+
The good news is that once again the defense took away a team's running game as Browns RB Trent Richardson was held to just 47 yards on 14 carries (though he did have a one-yard touchdown). The bad news is it gave up over 300 passing yards for the third consecutive week. Browns QB Brandon Weeden gained some momentum in the second half and finished the game throwing for 320 yards. However, CB Cary Williams came away with Baltimore's play of the game, returning an interception 63 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. The Ravens didn't generate as much of a pass rush as they would have liked, though outside linebacker Paul Kruger recorded his first sack of the season.
Previous game's grade: C
Special teams: C
After three solid games, the special teams unit had quite a few miscues on Thursday. P Sam Koch mishandled a snap on an extra point attempt after Baltimore's first touchdown. K Justin Tucker missed his first field goal of the year, albeit it was raining pretty heavily. WR/RS Deonte Thompson ran back a kickoff in the back of the end zone and reached just the 11 yard line to open the third quarter. The punt coverage team allowed a 40-yard return from Bengals WR Travis Benjamin in the fourth quarter. Though the special teams group has been a strength through the first quarter of the season, it made some mistakes Thursday night.
Previous game's grade: A-
With the rain pouring down, Baltimore could've seen that as a sign to run the ball more and not risk throwing a wet ball through the air. But with the Browns loading the box to take away the run, the coaches made a smart decision in trusting Flacco and the receivers to make plays in the passing game. On defense, DC Dean Pees continues to do a good job rotating personnel groups, which has kept his unit fresh in the fourth quarters of each game. The defense is giving up an average of just over 20 points per game, meaning the offense has to keep pressure on opposing defenses and score points. Coach John Harbaugh and his staff never wavered from the gameplan Thursday night and it paid off in the end.
Previous game's grade: B