Ravens Blow a Big Lead Against the Browns
RAVENS BLOW A BIG LEAD AGAINST THE BROWNS – This team no longer surprises me. The Ravens’ inability to close out games in the fourth quarter has been a theme over the past few seasons. No other team delivers such flukey losses with such baffling consistency.
The worst part: There’s no obvious culprit, no rationale for these collapses. This makes it feel as though this team is rotten – inexplicably destined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in a Sisyphean performance that sickens Ravens fans.
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One Play At A Time
I don’t know what self-loathing Ravens fan is still reading after that opening, but the wallowing stops here. Baltimore is still in the division’s driver’s seat, and the number two seed in the conference. But for the first time this season, it was the Ravens’ defense that underperformed.
The 33 points allowed is misleading given Lamar Jackson’s pick-six, but the unit failed to corral the Browns in clutch moments. Cleveland controlled the clock, particularly in the second half, and displayed the patience necessary to chip away at Mike MacDonald’s bend-but-don’t-break defense. The Browns’ monster 17-play, 10-minute touchdown drive to open the third quarter was just what they needed to get back in the game.
On the drive, Cleveland converted a 4th and 1 in their own territory and an improbable 3rd and 11 on a screen pass to their tight end. Had the Browns been forced to kick a field goal, it’s hard to imagine them finding a way to overcome the deficit. But they deserve credit for coming up repeatedly in high-pressure spots.
From Wows To Woes
This was not a memorable Lamar Jackson performance. The brilliance he displayed in his week four rout of the Browns was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t that his throws were errant, save the one overthrown fade to Zay Flowers that surely would have been a touchdown.
He just wasn’t the special player he’s been as of late. Although he did have his share of errors, he didn’t get much help from the football gods. His pick-six was the best example of plain bad luck.
We’ve seen Lamar drop his elbow and deliver passes with his patented three-quarter release a million times. And 99 times out of a hundred, he manages to bend it around traffic into the perfect window. Worst case scenario, you think maybe the ball gets batted down, but of course, in the bizarro world where the Ravens hold a fourth-quarter lead, the pass careened off of a Browns helmet straight up into the waiting hands of a Cleveland corner with a clear path to the endzone.
No sane human who watched that play came away blaming Lamar. But the interception will count all the same on the stat sheet, and you’d better believe that sports talk shows will eat up a two-pick outing from Jackson.
It’s pretty clear that Keaton Mitchell will not meet the same fate as Ty’Son Williams. His 14+ yard average on the ground is too mind-bogglingly efficient to overlook, even for John Harbaugh, whose bias against rookie running backs runs deeper than his love of anti-aging cream. Don’t look that up. It isn’t real. Or is it?
Mitchell is a dynamo, as seen on his 39-yard touchdown scamper in which he submitted his entry for “angle-defying run of the year.” But after he toasted Cleveland’s defense on his first touch of the game, he received only two more carries and three more touches overall. In fact, he was on the field for only four plays in the second half.
Now I’m no NFL coach, and I’ll admit the 5-foot-8, 192-pound rookie isn’t the poster child of smash-mouth, milk-the-clock football, but the kid deserves more snaps. Even if you want to make the argument that he isn’t built to handle a heavy workload, just having him on the field as a decoy stresses out a defense that had been outpaced by him once already.
It isn’t time to panic – yet. It’s possible that the Ravens simply met a hungrier Browns team intent on getting a statement win over their division rivals. Cleveland played a solid game, but Baltimore must feel this loss was self-inflicted.
Now only a half-game up in the AFC North, with a ludicrous remaining schedule, Baltimore cannot afford to compound their errors.