As if there was not enough emotion heading into this past Monday night's game against the Patriots after last year's loss, the game was put into perspective early Sunday morning when Torrey Smith's younger brother, Tevin, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Smith was unsure of his game status until just hours before kickoff, when he decided to take the field in honor of his brother. And boy, did he make a difference. With the Ravens down 13-0 early in the 2nd quarter, Flacco looked and found Smith for a leaping touchdown grab that thrust the Ravens right back in the thick of the battle. Flacco would find Dennis Pitta just minutes later to put the Ravens on top. You gotta love the white tight end. Don't leave home without him. The Patriots would rally back, however, and put the ball in the end zone in the final seconds of the half to take a 20-14 lead. At this point, the Ravens defense was being bullied by Tom Brady and the Patriots offensive machine. Brady was picking on Ravens CB Cary Williams from start to finish. To begin the second half, the offense would need to pick up the struggling defense. How about that for a change? The offense put up points early on a Ray Rice score, but would be countered with a TD run from Danny Woodhead. A Patriots field goal gave them a 30-21 lead with an entire quarter left to play. Joe Flacco would then anchor an eight-play, 92-yard drive to bring the Ravens within just two points. The touchdown went to none other than Torrey Smith, adding to a magical night for the emotional receiver. Here, the Ravens defense finally lived up to their expectations, halting the Patriots and giving Flacco the ball back with two minutes remaining, needing only a field goal for the win. A defensive pass interference deep in Patriots territory set up rookie K Justin Tucker for a potential 27-yard game winner. The kick flew just over the right upright, and the Ravens took away a win.
Player of the Game: Ravens WR Torrey Smith-6 catches, 127 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
Key Takeaway from the Game: This game easily could have gone either way. While there is some luck involved, credit must be given where it is due. Flacco and the offense picked up where the defense was lacking, and kept the game within reach. Rice lead the way with an up-tempo style of play, and the rest of the team pushed forward for the victory.
Note: This only happens a few times, so I must take a moment to acknowledge it. Go back to last week's blog and look at my prediction for how the game would end.
Tonight, the Ravens will welcome the division rival Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, a team that has started the year with three consecutive losses. This will be the Ravens fourth game in the last 18 days, but will have another ten days off before their next game. The Ravens took both of the games against the Browns last season, but will be facing a new team here this week. 28-year old rookie QB Brandon Weeden has had some trouble this year, throwing 6 interceptions against just 3 touchdowns so far. His fellow rookie, RB Trent Richardson, who was the #3 overall pick in the draft this past April, has had significantly more success than his counterpart. Richardson, who will be facing his toughest defense yet, has over 150 rushing yards with a touchdown and no fumbles. He is a very physical and punishing runner who is not scared of a defense like the Ravens, making this an even more intriguing matchup. On defense, the Browns have had their moments. They are currently leading the AFC with 7 turnovers, though 5 of them came against the Eagles in Week 1. They will be without top CB Joe Haden, however, who tested positive for Adderall. Haden picked off Flacco as a rookie back in 2010. The Browns also have LB D'Qwell Jackson out of Maryland, who has 3 sacks and two interceptions already this year. Jackson will no doubt be in charge of limiting Ray Rice. Look for the Ravens offense to pick on an inferior defense with an aggressive, no-huddle offense filled with play action.
Prediction: Both teams are playing this game on a short week, having played just four days ago. Don't be surprised to see a lot of offense, since the defenses should still be exhausted. But, if the Ravens were to pick a team to play in this type of game, it would be the Browns, a divisional team that you already know much about. It limits the amount of extensive study and video you have to do in preparation, despite the offensive additions the Browns have made. I have the Ravens gaining an early lead and maintaining it, winning 34-13.
Key Matchups for Ravens vs. Browns
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Browns QB Brandon Weeden Edge: Reed
Analysis: Of Reed's 57 career interceptions, 10 have come against the Browns, more than any other team. Reed should have a field day against the rookie Weeden.
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Browns RB Trent Richardson Edge: Lewis
Analysis: This is just experience over talent. Richardson will be a top back in this game one day, but for now, Lewis will have his number.
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Browns LB D'Qwell Jackson Edge: Push
Analysis: This will be tightly contested for 60 minutes. Both are poised to out-perform each other, making this a good matchup to pay attention to.
Ravens G Marshal Yanda vs. Browns DT Jabaal Sheard Edge: Yanda
Analysis: Sheard is the top defensive lineman for the Browns, but I believe Yanda has enough to control him and protect Flacco.
T Jah Reid-Calf-QST
LB James-Michael Johnson-Ribs/Oblique-OUT
WR Mohamed Massaquoi-Hamstring-OUT
TE Alex Smith-Head-OUT
DB Ray Ventrone-Hand-QST
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!