The Baltimore Ravens squashed the division rival Cleveland Browns in a classic AFC North beatdown, and here are five takeaways from the Ravens 14-6 victory.
1. Incredible pass rush
Terrell Suggs had three hits on Peyton Manning last week, and he followed up that performance with three more quarterback hits in Week 2. Suggs looks like a man on a mission, and it looks like the adage about how a great pass rusher gets a huge benefit from having another great pass rusher on the other side of him is certainly applicable for the Baltimore Ravens defense. Elvis Dumervil also had himself a whale of a ballgame against the Browns defense with three QB hits of his own. Overall, the Ravens sacked Brandon Weeden five times and hit him a whopping 12 times. Yeah, 12. The pressure off the edges against Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz is definitely impressive, and the Ravens pass rush (and defense) was just beastly. Haloti Ngata and Daryl Smith also hit Weeden multiple times. This pass rush is going to continue to wreck opponents this year, and one division opponent in particular should be worried about the Ravens ravenous rush; the Pittsburgh Steelers.
2. Torrey Smith steps up
One of the biggest concerns about the Baltimore Ravens is the pass-catchers, and it goes beyond just concerns regarding the depth at WR. I came into the season wondering if Torrey Smith would be even remotely consistent enough to be a No. 1 receiver, because he has never been consistent despite his wealth of talent. Well, Smith stepped up big-time in this game, because it’s not easy to catch seven passes for 85 yards against Joe Haden, who is one of the best corners in the game. Smith was shadowed by Haden all day, but the Ravens didn’t give up on trying to feed Smith the ball. They really had no other choice anyway with Marlon Brown and Brandon Stokely as the only other options, so they decided to throw it to Smith 13 times. While a 7 of 13 completion rate doesn’t exactly look good, it’s actually quite impressive when you look at who Smith was facing. He produced like a No. 1 receiver against a bona fide cover corner, and they’ll need him to replicate that against the Houston Texans next week, especially with Ray Rice‘s status in doubt after a hip injury.
3. Joe Flacco does his job
Despite being down to Smith, Brown, and Stokely as his top three receivers, Joe Flacco played a solid game on Sunday, and I came away with his ability to play a clean game. Despite being consistently, Flacco was able to largely escape the Cleveland Browns vastly talented OLBs and defensive line by only being sacked twice. Flacco completed two-thirds of his passes in a solid game, and he played smart, mistake-free football. That’s the kind of play the Ravens need from their big-money QB, and I really liked what Flacco was able to do. Backed by a strong defense and playing against a strong defense, that’s the kind of game a quarterback needs to have; a game without mistakes. The Browns did an excellent job of taking away the deep ball, so Flacco hit the underneath stuff perfectly, spread the wealth, and wasn’t afraid to attack top Browns CB Joe Haden.
4. Efficiency on 3rd
Sometimes there is a team stat that really jumps out at me when surfing the box score, and this one was pretty eye-opening. The Baltimore Ravens converted 50% of their third downs (8-16) yesterday, and that sort of third-down efficiency and consistency can be instrumental in winning close, defensive ballgames. Putting the Ravens 8-16 day in context by looking at the Browns paltry 4-15 conversion rate makes things even more impressive, and the Ravens did a lot of the little things well on Sunday.