BALTIMORE (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns expected the Ravens to provide them with one of their toughest tests of the season and Baltimore was up to the challenge.
Hue Jackson’s team got a reality check following a strong debut at home against the Steelers in Week 1 as the Ravens thumped them 24-10 Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium dropping them to 0-2 on the year. It marked the second straight year, seventh in the last 10 and the 10th time since 1999 that the team failed to at least split their first 2 games.
Here’s a look at the good and bad from Sunday’s game in Baltimore.
The run game – Duke Johnson was involved, Isaiah Crowell had a few bursts of 10-plus yards and although they ran fewer times this week they got better production on the ground: 21 carries, 93 yards and 4.4 yards per carry average. Unfortunately, Hue Jackson went away from the run in the second half thanks to the 2-score deficit. For a team that says they want the run game to drive their offense, Jackson sure doesn’t call the game that way but then again the scoreboard isn’t giving him reason to.
Kevin Hogan – Hogan did a serviceable job in relief of DeShone Kizer, who had to get checked after experiencing a migraine. Hogan led both of the Browns’ scoring drives including throwing a 23-yard touchdown to rookie tight end David Njoku, who made a great catch in the end zone before delivering a sound spike of the ball as he leaped into the air with his legs extended. Hogan also led a third quarter field goal drive before Kizer returned, but the interception he threw with less than a minute to play in the first half was a back breaker. Just 3 plays after the pick, Baltimore converted it into a touchdown with 00:01 left in the half for a 21-7 advantage at intermission.
Rashard Higgins – Higgins was elevated Saturday from the practice squad and he immediately paid dividends by catching 7 of 11 targets for 95 yards – all team highs. Unfortunately, 3 of the 4 interceptions happened to be thrown in his direction, but he was not responsible for the turnovers.
Big Plays – Isaiah Crowell broke off a 17-yard run, Duke Johnson got through for 16 yards while 6 passes went for 20 or more yards including Seth DeValve’s 49-yard catch and run, a 34 yard gain to Johnson on what might end up being the 1-handed catch of the year and then there was Higgins’ 34 yard reception. The next step is turning more of those big plays into points.
DeShone Kizer – Kizer threw 3 interceptions and all 3 were a result of poorly thrown footballs. On the first pick he threw a fastball out in front of Johnson on a basic pattern out of the backfield that went off of his hands into the waiting arms of safety Eric Weddle. The second interception was a result of a low throw that was also short to Higgins in the end zone in the fourth quarter that was scooped before it hit the turf by Ladarius Webb. After the Browns and Ravens played hot potato with the football, which was eventually recovered by the Browns after fumbling away a fumble recovery and return, Kizer missed Higgins again over the middle and got burned by cornerback Brandon Carr. Welcome to the NFL kid.
Dinked and dunked to death – For the second straight week the Browns’ defense got torched with short, intermediate routes. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said Friday that was the plan against the Steelers. Williams seems worried about giving up the deep ball but that plan is resulting in them being carved up thanks to the open space in the middle of the field, which Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was quite content feasting on. Tight end Ben Watson caught all 8 targets for 91 yards. It might be time to move safety Jabrill Peppers out of coverage assignments and have him work closer to the front to help the linebackers to prevent all the dinks and dunks from fueling scoring drives.
Turnovers – Hue Jackson preaches to take care of the football but that didn’t happen this week. A total of 5 turnovers, including 4 interceptions – 2 of which were turned into Ravens touchdowns – pretty much sealed their fate in Week 2.
Injuries – Kizer missed 4 series due to a migraine but was able to return, receiver Corey Coleman may have broken his hand following a collision early in the fourth quarter and linebacker Jamie Collins suffered a concussion to cap off a painful day for the Browns.