How awesome was that?! I’m still riding the schalacking the Ravens gave the Steelers in Pittsburgh, on primetime television, and I’m sure that the boys are, too. Baltimore made a statement on Sunday night, and it was one they needed, given the way their last two trips to Heinz Field ended.
As I’m sure most of you were, I was nervous and uninspired going into halftime. Watching the game with my “friend,” a Steelers fan, I could tell he had felt the momentum shift and was ready to see what the black and gold did with the first possession. What they did (fail to move the ball), became a second-half trend. In my opinion, this was the Ravens most dominant defensive performance of the year. Not the shutout against Denver in Week-3 and not even the near-shutout against Buffalo in Week-1. Both of those games were at home against teams that simply lack a deep offensive roster. The Steelers, however, have been lauded for their “Killer B’s” (LOL @LeVeonBell) and their arsenal of targets for Big Ben to hit. They’ve run up and down the field on Baltimore in recent, especially in the second half, with ease. But not Sunday.
Whether it was Marlon Humphrey, Anthony Levine, Timmy Williams or Brandon Carr (what a game from him), the defense was flying around the field and imposing their will on the Steelers. I don’t have any statistics on hand, but I’m sure it’s been a long time since that team has been held under 50 yards in a half. Wink and his crew did us proud and even have pundits claiming the squad reminds them of the historic defenses of the early 2000s.
And the offense? That was masterful, too. Joe Flacco looked strong as ever, rifling throws to numerous targets and dropping bombs to a receiver who may end up being the favorite he’s ever had: John Brown. This Flacco-Brown connection is one worth watching as the season moves on, and it’s worth noting that Smokey is 3rd amongst receivers in yardage. Besides those two, though, I was thoroughly impressed with Willie Snead IV and Maxx Williams. Those two consistently moved the chains and came up big on a few critical occasions. Tim White came up big, too, and I hope to see him on offense a bit more as the year goes on — I still feel that he has potential.
Marty Mornhinweg did another great job of being creative, and even though this has been highlighted all over the Ravens website this week, it’s worth mentioning again. Additionally, I was a bigger fan of the team’s usage of Lamar Jackson against Pittsburgh. If it weren’t for Tomlin burning a 1st-quarter timeout, I’m convinced the rookie would have had his first career NFL touchdown.
I hate to turn the focus of this blog, but once again, if there’s any reason for concern, it’s Alex Collins. The O-Line may have had its best performance last week, yet Collins wasn’t breaking off the runs that we’re used to seeing. Regardless of yardage, though, he needs to stop coughing up the football. A fumble at the 1-yard line in any situation is bad as hell, but if it’s at a point where the team can go up 21-3, it’s doggone unforgivable. I’m very curious to see what the split will be this weekend against Cleveland — we may even see more DeLance Turner.
Moving the gaze towards the Browns, I am worried despite my high over last week’s win. In my predictions for the season, I viewed this game as a potential trap, and I still see it that way. The Ravens will be soaring (as I alluded to at the beginning of the blog), but they will also be excited to avenge last year’s loss in Tennessee against a team that, once again, will be in playoff contention. Under those circumstances, it may be easy to overlook the Browns.
Cleveland is better than they’ve been in a while, but everyone knows that by know. I don’t think they’ll sneak up on Baltimore, but they may catch them napping. However, I can see this game playing out two different ways:
First, the Ravens could walk in completely prepared and fired up to give rookie QB Baker Mayfield a taste of what a real NFL defense is like. Scratch that — they’ll be fired up to give him a taste of what a historically good NFL defense is like. The boys will force multiple turnovers, maybe even taking one to the house, and the offense will feed off the energy and win by two scores or more. Also, worth noting, under these circumstances, the touchdown-less second-halves streak will continue. If that happens, here’s my final: Ravens – 30, Browns – 13
If that doesn’t happen, the Ravens may sleepwalk into the game and lay an egg, falling behind early in a fashion reminiscent of when they trailed Cleveland 20-2 just before halftime in 2016. Unlike that season, though, the Browns are competent on both sides of the ball and arguably above-average on the defensive one. If the Ravens trail by more than a touchdown at the intermission, I fear they may not be able to claw their way back: Ravens – 21, Browns – 26
I can see both of these outcomes happening, and I sure hope it’s the former, but either way, I think Baltimore can be pleased with the way their Ravens look after a quarter of the season. This is a tough road-trip that the team is on, and if they come out of it 2-1, I’ll be happy. The Ravens are off to a great start in achieving that after their win in Pittsburgh, so let’s hope they secure that outcome at worst by extending their winning streak and bringing Cleveland back to the reality of years past.