The Ravens were able to escape Cleveland with an ugly, ugly 16-0 shutout win over Cleveland High School the Browns for their first Monday Night victory in their last six tries. However, the effort put forth by the purple and black, especially on offense, wouldn’t be enough to win on most any other Sunday (or Monday or Thursday).
The ineptitude of the Cleveland Browns, who never advanced the ball past the Ravens’ 45-yard line on the night, approaches historic levels. After a shutout – a ROAD shutout at that – the impulse is there to laud the Ravens’ defense for pitching their first goose egg since shutting out the Steelers in Week 12 of 2006. But…man…Brady Quinn made Kyle Boller look like the guy the Ravens are set to face next week, and his receivers would just as soon deflect passes to the other team as pull them in and pick up some yardage. Somehow, it was the first time all year that they were kept off the scoreboard, but still…beating your chest about shutting out the Browns seems akin to bragging about how many toddlers you just punched in the face. (cough, Hiney Ward, cough)
After watching the epic Patriots-Colts game on Sunday night (for my money, the best game since the Pats-Giants Super Bowl), watching the Ravens and Browns flail about last night, especially for the first 30 scoreless minutes, was like watching the 85-lb Pasadena Bucs on a Saturday morning – it’s hard to believe the two games were part of the same league.
It was the first time so far in 2009 that an NFL game went to the half tied 0-0, and was just another in the long line of forgettable Ravens’ first halves. Joe Flacco’s “Joe Cool” persona is still apparent, but lately his first half performances make a nickname like “Joe Slow,” as in, slow start, seem more appropriate. As Glenn Clark points out, the Ravens’ last six first halves of play have resulted in 0, 0, 6, 3, 7, and 7 points, respectively.
The Ravens’ rhythm-less, identity-devoid offense has progressed from a minor annoyance, to a consistent concern, to a full blown crisis. To manage just 1 touchdown and 1 field goal, against the 32nd-ranked defense in the league, is sad, pathetic, inexcusable, and [insert-your-own-derogatory-adjective-here]. Cam Cameron, who had transformed his unit from one of the league’s most laughable to one that some were even describing as “explosive,” over his first season-plus in B’More, has seen his stock fall sharply, and last night may have very likely been a new low. Despite not turning the ball over, the Ravens managed only 9 offensive points (a blocked extra point kept it from being 10). Their seven punts tied a season high, and, despite running the ball on 36 of 58 snaps, time of possession was nearly a wash, at 31:32-28:28.
- Ravens’ running backs averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.
- The ONLY Ravens’ wide receiver to catch a pass was Derrick Mason, who hauled in 3 for 78 yards.
- Flacco was sacked three more times, which now makes seven in the last two games, the total number of times he was taken down in the season’s first five contests.
- And of course, young Steve “Wide Left” Hauschka did himself absolutely no favors, as he missed a chip shot 38 yard field goal that would have given the Ravens an early 3-0 lead, and had his second extra point attempt blocked by the Browns’ Shaun Rogers. The second year kicker is now just 9-13 on the season (10-15 career), and with Matt Stover coming to town in Irsay Blue this week, the kid is going to find himself none-too-welcome by many in his own home stadium Sunday afternoon.
The game was also rough on the Ravens from an injury standpoint. Second year safety and huge special teams contributor Haruki Nakamura had his ankle broken on the opening kickoff, and is likely to be placed on injured reserve. Haloti Ngata was again unable to go on his sore ankle, but should be ready for Indianapolis.
The larger concern is Terrell Suggs, who was injured on a cheap-shot low block by Brady Quinn on Chris Carr’s 3rd quarter interception. Quinn was flagged on the play, but 15 yards, especially in that game, is little condolence for a sprained knee to #55. Suggs left the game and did not return, and his status moving forward is currently unknown (Update: Reports say Suggs out 4-5 weeks. Craaaaaap). His absence did, however, open the door for the much called-for and enigmatic Paul Kruger to get the first game action of his career – he responded by picking up more penalty yards (5) than tackles (0).
There is no better time to pull the “a win is a win” card, for all involved – Ravens players, coaches, and staff, and certainly for us fans. As disgusting and uninspiring as it was, the 5-4 next to “Ravens” in the standings is the same this morning as it would have been after the 34-3 drubbing that most of us expected. B’More is tied with Jacksonville (?!) and Houston at just one full game behind Pittsburgh and San Diego for the AFC’s final playoff spot.
May we suggest that, like us, you spend the next six days convincing yourselves that it was all part of the plan – that the Ravens were simply keeping their true abilities close to the vest, only to unleash them in full force on the unsuspecting Colts (who likely turned this one off at halftime and laughed themselves to sleep). That fantasy may be crushed by the “horseshoe of reality,” in due time, but until then, keep the purple faith, won’t you?