Browns at Ravens Game Preview

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Nov 10, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) passes during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

‘No such thing as a moral victory,’ was the oft-repeated mantra of the Browns after a close loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opening game of the season.

Whether or not you believe that message (or more importantly, that the Browns believe that message) is up to the individual.

The simple truth is that the Browns played some of the best football they have in the past five years last Sunday, and even Ben Roethlisberger noted it after the game.

The Browns now turn towards the Baltimore Ravens, whose defense is considered to be one of the best in football this season. The Bengals were 4/13 on 3rd down against them last week and only put up 221 total offensive yards. The Ravens also created turnovers to the tune of four interceptions and one fumble.

Sep 10, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) reacts after sacking Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (not pictured) in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt; the Bengals offense was stagnant once again against the Texans Thursday night, meaning that it wasn’t just the Ravens stellar defense that kept the Bengals off the board.

The Ravens offense may be the weaker offense in this game. They only put up 268 total offensive yards last week. The Browns only racked up 237 yards, but that was largely because they couldn’t establish the run.

Establishing the Run

If the Browns could do one thing to help them win this game, it would be to establish the running game. That way, Kizer wouldn’t have to carry the offense on his shoulders and it would reduce his opportunities to make mistakes.

One thing Kizer will do, with or without the run established,¬†is take a lot of sacks. He’s holding onto the ball way too long in the pocket and often tries to extend plays that end up resulting in a sack. The Ravens have a better pass rush than the Steelers, and Kizer was sacked seven times last week. It’s hard to imagine the Ravens beating that number, but it’s also likely on paper if he can’t get the ball out of his hand.

That’s where the backfield comes in.

Kizer took a lot of check-down opportunities, which replaced running the ball as the Browns short-yardage strategy last week. When they tried to run the ball, Crowell averaged only 1.9 yards per attempt. His longest rush was 6 yards.


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Players to Watch

Isaiah Crowell

Dec 11, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell (34) runs the ball for a first down against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Bengals won 23-10. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Though the Steelers dominated at the line last week, part of the blame has to fall on Isaiah Crowell. To call him ineffective against the Steelers would be a huge understatement, and the Browns failure to establish the run is a large part of why Kizer struggled as much as he did.

If the Browns want to win this game, they need to have success on the ground. It’s essentially that simple.

Joe Schobert

Joe Schobert has been a rising star on this Browns defense for the season so far. He had a great preseason and continued that excellence against the Steelers.

Schobert’s tackling and speed have already bolstered this Browns linebacking corp.

Though this Ravens offense isn’t anywhere near as explosive as the Steelers one, Schobert is going to have plenty of opportunities to step up and make plays for the Browns.

Prediction

Similar to last week, if Myles Garrett was playing for the Browns it would be tempting to choose them to win this game. They played well against the Steelers and arguably could have won if not for the special teams gaffe, and the Ravens are a beatable team, despite having a good defense.

Cleveland Browns:13

Baltimore Ravens: 17

On paper the Ravens should take this, largely based off the more proven defense and the experience at the quarterback position. Flacco isn’t going to make the mistakes that Kizer is likely going to make, and in this close, defensive game it’s likely going to come down to the mistakes that a team makes/doesn’t make.

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