Baltimore Ravens vs Cleveland Browns: What We Learned


Dec 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone has heard the cliche about a team “flipping a switch.” Supposedly, a struggling team can flip some magical switch and miraculously play better. Down 10-3 at home against the Connor Shaw led Cleveland Browns, that’s exactly what the Baltimore Ravens did to win 20-10.

It most certainly was miraculous, and more importantly, it showed that when the Ravens are firing on all-cylinders, they can be among the most dominant teams in the NFL. Here’s a look at that lesson and a few more as we examine what we learned from the Ravens’ dramatic win.

This is still an excellent football team

There was a point early in the fourth quarter in which the Ravens had played 11 straight quarters of awful football. It was enough to make even the more optimistic fan wonder, “Are the Ravens really that good?”

With a little under 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, there were some rumbles of potential when Joe Flacco hit Owen Daniels for a 39-yard gain. That play resulted in a field goal, but it wasn’t enough to really produce confidence. After all, the Ravens’ offense stalled out yet again.

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It was at that point, with around eight minutes left in the fourth quarter and fan’s confidence still low, when Torrey Smith put the team on his back. First, he caught a 53-yard bomb, adjusting to the ball in a way few thought he could. On the following play, it was Smith again who came up with a big play, snagging a contested 16-yard touchdown.

A three-point lead was not enough for the Ravens. They held the Browns three-and-out, then proceeded to march down the field for another touchdown, this time a two-yard Kamar Aiken catch.

On those two drives, Joe Flacco was four-of-four passing for 95 yards and two touchdowns. The ground game miraculously found life, with Justin Forsett ripping off a 27-yard gain to start the second touchdown drive. And the Ravens finally scored in the red zone, showing that passing in the red zone might be a better option for this team until Lorenzo Taliaferro returns next year.

It was arguably the most dominant quarter the Ravens have played this year, as they dominated both sides of the ball en route to a 17-0 quarter. Defensively, the Ravens pressured Connor Shaw, sacking him and forcing a Lardarius Webb interception. Offensively, the Ravens were not stopped once, scoring on three drives and kneeling to end the game on their final one.

This is still an excellent football team. They just needed to flip the switch, and when that happened, they proved they can compete with any team.

The Ravens are getting Haloti Ngata back just in time

Local product Terrance West clearly held no soft spot for the Ravens, as he ran roughshod over them en route to a 94-yard, one touchdown performance. He broke off some big runs and was consistently able to pick up at least three or four yards on almost every carry. With no Chris Canty, no Haloti Ngata and an injury to Timmy Jernigan, the Ravens run defense suffered.

Just in time, the Ravens are getting their defensive lynchpin back in Haloti Ngata. If there is no rust, Ngata should make a huge impact on the Ravens run defense, helping them stop the Steelers’ ground game in the Ravens’ wildcard matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens get a third shot at the Pittsburgh Steelers

After splitting the season series, Baltimore Ravens fans have to be excited at the prospect of taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers for the third time. The Steelers won the AFC North, but the winner of this game will ultimately have bragging rights in the division (unless the Cincinnati Bengals miraculously win a playoff game).

Honestly, there is no team the Ravens should rather have wanted to play than the Steelers. Baltimore road struggles are usually not as pronounced in Pittsburgh, and anything can happen when these two bitter rivals face off.

The NFL should be happy too. This is the best, most heated rivalry in the NFL, backed up by both teams’ decade-plus of success. When two of the most successful teams in the league hate one another, it makes for awesome TV when they play. This game should be no exception.

There is a lot of emotion going into this game on top of the usual X’s and O’s, so picking a winner will be difficult. Ravens’ fans should be happy to be there, though, and the Ravens should be thrilled to get a chance to win the season series against the hated Steelers.

Next: Torrey Smith wanted one more game as a Raven