A funny thing happened to the Ravens and their fans on Sunday en-route to the highly expected cakewalk over the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns actually showed up.
Well, everyone except Eric Wright, that is.
And while the Browns did, in fact, offer a decent representation of themselves on Sunday, when gut check time arrived in the 4th quarter, the Ravens responded.
Make no mistake about it — had the Ravens lost this game on Sunday, all hell would have broken loose in Baltimore this week. Make that ALL HELL in all CAPS.
No…it wasn’t exactly a Super Bowl-caliber performance in the first 45 minutes, but when push came to shove and Baltimore needed to man-up both offensively and defensively, they did just that in a 24-17 victory over Cleveland.
The win will come with lots of questions, of course. Unless you win, 34-0, there are always going to be folks bellyaching about something. In this case, though, some of the crying from the fans might be justified.
Some guy named Peyton Hillis ran through, over and around the Ravens virtually all day on Sunday. A career journeyman named Seneca Wallace started at quarterback in place of former Pro Bowl QB Jake Delhomme and gave Baltimore fits with his accuracy and ability to move around in the pocket. And if the Browns had someone in the secondary to even remotely contain Ravens WR Anquan Boldin, this Sunday in Baltimore could have been a real downer.
It turned out to be a one-score game because the Browns didn’t turn the ball over. And when given the opportunity to take advantage of a big play, like Hillis’ 48 yard 3rd quarter scamper, Cleveland did so like a good team actually would. Then, the old Browns showed up. A handful of late penalties crippled their comeback attempt, including an unthinkable off-sides on the kick-off after they had taken the lead in the 4th quarter. The ensuing difference (16 yards) was just part of the Browns’ downfall on that drive, where Flacco and Boldin hooked up for their 3rd score of the day to give Baltimore a lead they’d never surrender.
It wasn’t pretty.
Cleveland could make the argument they deserved to win if not for the horrific performance from defensive back Eric Wright.
But the Ravens came through when it mattered most, in the 4th quarter, with the game on the line.
For one week, anyway, Joe Flacco will be exempt from the criticism he endured a week ago.
And while the Ravens await word on a possible knee injury to Ray Rice, they’ll look ahead to a rough-and-tough tumble with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field next Sunday. One thing for sure: if that’s the performance Baltimore plans on putting out next Sunday, it won’t be pretty on the banks of the Three Rivers.
It’s also worth giving credit to the Browns, who showed up gamely on Sunday and put everyone around the league on notice that you don’t just throw your helmets on the field and handle them with ease anymore.