CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Although the bye week doesn’t start until after Sunday’s game with Baltimore, for the Cleveland Browns, the second half of the season begins against the Ravens.
The Browns enter the game at 2-6 but feel their record isn’t indicative of just how good they are and how far they’ve come as a team.
And they are looking to use the final 8 games to prove it.
“I feel like we’re a team on the rise, and we’re much better right now than where we were at the beginning of this season,” Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “We’ve got a rookie quarterback, a rookie No. 1 receiver and a rookie running back, which are the three most important skill positions on the offense, and I think they’re becoming more comfortable with the offense and more comfortable with their role.
“They’re all playing better right now, so hopefully we’re gonna have an improved record in the second half.”
Sunday, the Browns have a prime opportunity to unleash some pent up frustration.
They are riding a 9-game losing streak to Baltimore and haven’t beaten the Ravens since 2007 including a 23-16 loss in week 4.
In their 6 losses, the Browns have been able to hang with their opponents this season losing by an average of 7.2 points per game.
Week 4 was just another game that slipped through their fingers be it Brandon Weeden’s pick 6 to end the 3rd quarter or a 4th quarter touchdown pass that Greg Little was unable to haul in.
The young Browns know they can play with anyone. Now they need to show they can beat anyone.
“We may not talk about it, we may not bring it up, but mentally it’s got to give us confidence going forward,” quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “It’s showing we can play with anybody in this league, and I don’t think teams really take us lightly anymore. I think we’ve got guys that have really raised some eyebrows and really make you stay on your toes.
“You can’t just come to Cleveland or when you show up on Sunday, you can’t just fold your tent. We’re going to compete and play hard and it shows.”
Coming off of 2 wins in 3 weeks, including last week’s 7-6 victory in the driving wind and rain over the Chargers, the Browns have confidence entering week 9.
Unlike their first meeting in Baltimore, the Browns will be healthier and close to full strength.
Receiver Mohamed Massaquoi returns from a hamstring injury, defensive tackle Phil Taylor is off the PUP list and fully recovered from a pectoral tear and cornerback Joe Haden has played 3 games since returning from suspension.
“We just feel like there’s no reason why we can’t keep these wins coming,” Haden said. “They’re a beatable team, they’re really talented though not to put anything past them, but everybody in the division is beatable. We just feel like our team is on the verge of being at the top.”
Without Haden on the field, Joe Flacco and the Ravens torched the Browns secondary in their victory on Sept. 27.
Flacco threw for 356 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Anquan Boldin had 9 catches for 131 yards – in the second half – and receiver Torrey Smith had 6 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.
That’s all behind the Browns now as they look ahead to the Ravens and remainder of the schedule.
“We have a young team that has no recollection of what it means to lose consecutively all the time,” receiver/returner Josh Cribbs said. “A lot of these guys, they come from winning programs. It’s not the same old Browns. This is a different team. They don’t carry that, ‘Oh, let’s just pack it in. This is just like last year.’ They don’t carry that with them, which is refreshing.
“The true vets on this team are letting them know, ‘Hey, we’re going to win games. We’re going to turn this thing around.’ And they believe it, and it’s showing with our last victory.”
Baltimore’s run defense is ranked 30th in the NFL. They’ve allowed 622 yards on the ground over their last 3 games combined giving running back Trent Richardson plenty of opportunity to show once again why the Browns moved up to No. 3 to get him.
Although Ladarius Webb and Ray Lewis are sidelined for the season, the Ravens still have Terrell Suggs, who has returned for an Achilles injury and Richardson knows what that means.
“Terrell Suggs is one of those guys that’s going to hit you in the mouth from the first snap to the last snap,” Richardson said. “He’s going to go 110 percent every play and he’s one of them type guys that’s not going to get tired of hitting you. A lot of guys get tired of hitting me for four whole quarters, but he’s going to keep coming at you.
“That’s one thing I have been watching on film from his old tapes, so when it comes down to it, we’re just going to have to man up and we’re going to have to go blow for blow.”
Even though both teams are a little different from their first meeting, the Browns are ready for round 2.
“They’ve lost two of their better players, they’ve added one and they still have [free safety] Ed Reed in the back end, so they’re still a quality team,” Massaquoi said. “The offense is good. They’re very well coached. So we have to make sure that we’re hitting on all cylinders so we go in there and get the result we want.”