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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 29 November 2015 by Luke Jones

What do two bad teams with headaches at the quarterback position need more than anything?

A national audience for Monday Night Football?

Much to the chagrin of ESPN and NFL executives, the Matt Schaub era begins Monday night with the 3-7 Ravens traveling to Cleveland to take on the 2-8 Browns. It’s never a good thing when a primetime game holds far more draft implications than influences on the playoff race, but head coach John Harbaugh will try to navigate his team to a win in his first-ever regular-season game without Joe Flacco under center.

Of course, Flacco is just one of many injuries that have gutted a team that entered the 2015 season with Super Bowl aspirations. Now, it remains to be seen whether the Ravens will even win another game over their final six weeks.

Meanwhile, the Browns are rested coming off their bye week, but controversy surrounds their football team with the latest off-field concerns leading to second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel being benched.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Cleveland meet for the 34th time in their regular-season history and the Browns look for their first regular-season sweep of Baltimore since 2007. The Ravens hold a 24-9 advantage in the all-time series and are 11-5 playing in Cleveland.

Here’s what to expect as Baltimore tries to win its second road game of the season …

1. Buck Allen will surpass 135 total yards in his first NFL start. The rookie is the most compelling Ravens player to watch for the remainder of the season, and he’ll be facing the NFL’s 32nd-ranked run defense. Of course, Baltimore is far from 100 percent along its offensive line, and the Browns are likely to use eight men in the box to try to take away the run and force Schaub to make plays through the air. This will keep Allen from piling up huge numbers on the ground, but he’ll be a favorite receiver out of the backfield for his 34-year quarterback making his first start in almost two years.

2. Paul Kruger and Armonty Bryant will combine for three sacks against a battered Baltimore offensive line. As if life wasn’t difficult enough for Schaub without Steve Smith and Justin Forsett, Eugene Monroe and Kelechi Osemele are doubtful to play and James Hurst and Ryan Jensen will be entrusted to protect his blindside. This spells trouble for someone who is already going to be readjusting his live-game clock after minimal playing time over the last two years. For all of the justified complaints about Monroe’s durability, Hurst is a major liability and Flacco paid the price for it last week.

3. Gary Barnidge and Crockett Gillmore will each catch touchdowns for their respective teams. The Browns tight end had eight catches for 139 yards and a touchdown in Cleveland’s Week 5 win over the Ravens and will follow that with another strong performance on Monday. Meanwhile, Gillmore will make the Browns pay for using a strong safety in the box by beating man coverage for a red-zone touchdown. Considering Schaub doesn’t have a particularly strong arm and his receivers have little experience, Gillmore will now become an even bigger part of what the Ravens do through the air.

4. Brent Urban will bat down a pass and collect a tackle in his NFL debut. Not even the Ravens know exactly what to expect from Urban, who has yet to play as much as a preseason game snap in his two years in the NFL. But this is the time for the organization to start to find out about the 2014 fourth-round pick. At 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds, Urban should be an intriguing inside rusher in passing situations and will provide another option at the 5-technique defensive end spot. The Ravens thought enough of Urban to use the designation to return, so it will be interesting to finally watch him play.

5. Josh McCown will outplay Schaub in a listless 20-16 win for Cleveland. Neither of these teams are any good, but you generally side with the team who has the better quarterback and the Ravens likely would have preferred Manziel to start instead of McCown, who threw for over 450 yards in the Week 5 game at M&T Bank Stadium. Unless the Schaub from circa 2010 shows up — not the guy who has struggled mightily since 2013 — the Ravens just aren’t going to be a great bet to beat anyone for the rest of the season. There’s always a very real chance that the Browns self-destruct at a critical point in the game, but the Ravens have been just as guilty of doing that in this nightmare season.

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Future now all that matters for 2015 Ravens

Posted on 28 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are facing the Cleveland Browns in arguably the most irrelevant nationally-televised game in franchise history.

Perhaps ESPN Monday Night Football broadcaster Mike Tirico said it best last week when he asked analyst Jon Gruden if he loved football and followed that by saying, “We’ll test you and see how much all of you love it out there.”

Not only are these AFC North foes playing out the string with their playoff hopes having already been dashed weeks ago, but the Ravens will be competing in their first-ever contest without any of Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, or Joe Flacco, who are arguably the five most significant players in their 20 years in Baltimore.

But ask head coach John Harbaugh if he cares about the outside perception of his injury-depleted team and of Monday night’s game between two of the worst teams in the AFC.

“We want to go win a football game. It’s a fight out there,” Harbaugh said on Saturday. “We’re not sitting there saying, ‘Oh, I wonder what everybody thinks about me.’ I’m not worried about [that]. We’re not in seventh grade here. ‘I wonder what they think of me. What are they texting about us? What does Snapchat say?’

“We don’t care what they think. We’re going to go out there and be our best, do our best and try to accomplish everything we can accomplish.”

It’s the right attitude for the Ravens to have as there’s no such thing as tanking the remainder of the season with a slew of players — and, frankly, several coaches — fighting for jobs in 2016 and beyond. But when your current starting offense — aside from four-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda — more closely resembles one for a fourth preseason game, there’s no hiding from the truth.

Wins and losses do not matter as it relates to the context of the 2015 season. The end result only affects where the Ravens might pick in next April’s draft as the organization is in desperate need of impact talent. In that way, they’re better off losing as many of their final six games as possible.

And if we’re being honest, the Ravens aren’t equipped to win with what remains of the original 2015 roster — no matter how hard they try. The loss of Flacco was the final straw in that regard.

That’s why it’s important for the organization to get an extended look at younger players the rest of the way. The list is headlined by rookie running back Buck Allen, who will be making his first NFL start after veteran Justin Forsett suffered a season-ending arm injury last week.

“We’re excited to put the ball in Buck’s hands and see what he can do and give our other guys an opportunity to play, and that’s the nature of our league,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “The next guy has to be ready to help us. It can happen during the course of the game — which it did — and it happens week to week. That’s an expectation that we have that they’ll play well for us.”

Regardless of how many games they win or lose the rest of the way, the Ravens would love to see Allen look the part of a starting running back for the future after selecting him in the fourth round this past spring. Learning more about other little-used players such as safety Terrence Brooks, defensive end Brent Urban, and the forgotten 2013 second-round linebacker Arthur Brown could go a long way in trying to revamp the roster in the offseason in hopes of once again being a playoff contender next season.

Harbaugh won’t say it publicly, but identifying pieces for the future and making decisions about dead weight on the roster must be the top priority. Other than determining whether he can play at a level warranting a return to back up Flacco next season, it’s just not compelling to see how Matt Schaub — or any number of other known commodities — will fare against the Browns in front of a national audience.

It’s an unfamiliar place in which the Ravens find themselves, but all eyes need to be on the future for the final six games of a nightmare season. They’ll show up and play to the best of their ability, but these Ravens are firmly in evaluation mode.

Any other thinking would be shortsighted.

“Everything you do you have to be thinking about the short term and the long term, so we try to do both,” Harbaugh said earlier this week. “Definitely from a coaching perspective, your focus is most certainly on the short term — and your players and your coaches — and getting ready for the next game. But there is an awareness of the long term, for sure.”

The long term is the only intrigue remaining in a lost season that — unfortunately — will be on display for the football world to see on Monday night.

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Osemele, Monroe doubtful to play against Cleveland

Posted on 28 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Playing in their first game without franchise quarterback Joe Flacco since 2007, the Ravens offensive line will be far less than 100 percent for Matt Schaub against Cleveland on Monday night.

On the final injury report of the week, starting left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) and starting left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) were both listed as doubtful to play against the Browns. Though estimated as a limited participant on Thursday’s injury report — a day on which the Ravens didn’t practice due to the Thanksgiving holiday — Osemele did not take part in any practices this week after already missing last Sunday’s game against St. Louis.

Monroe hasn’t taken part in practices all week after re-injuring his shoulder in the third quarter of the Rams game. The veteran offensive tackle has already missed four games and parts of three others in an injury-plagued 2015 campaign.

“The guys who haven’t practiced, they have reps; they can play,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll just get them to Monday night — we have an extra day — and see how they’re doing, see where we’re at, and if they can play, they will. That’s the kind of guys they are, and if they can’t, the next guys are ready to play. It’s a cohesive group. I’m not too worried about the [offensive] line at all. It’s a cohesive group, we have depth, and no matter who is playing is going to play really well.”

Should the pair not be able to play, the Ravens would start James Hurst at left tackle and Ryan Jensen at left guard. Of course, it was Hurst who rolled into Flacco’s left knee to cause a season-ending injury on the final drive of last week’s win over St. Louis.

Baltimore would likely need to add another healthy offensive lineman to the 53-man roster, meaning guards Kaleb Johnson and Robert Myers could be candidates to promote from the practice squad. With Monroe and Osemele injury, the Ravens have just six healthy offensive linemen on the current roster.

They listed No. 3 cornerback Shareece Wright as questionable after a back issue flared up on Friday. He did not take part in Saturday’s practice and would likely be replaced by veteran Kyle Arrington in the nickel package if he cannot play.

A disappointing season continues for wide receiver Marlon Brown, who was listed as doubtful with a back injury after not practicing all week. The third-year wideout played a season-low four offensive snaps in Week 11 and has become a complete afterthought in the Ravens’ passing game after beginning the year as the No. 3 receiver.

Rookie tight end Nick Boyle (foot) is probable to play against Cleveland after missing the first game of his NFL career last week.

Tight end Chase Ford (shoulder) was also listed as doubtful for Monday’s game after failing to participate in Saturday’s practice.

Meanwhile, the Browns officially ruled out Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden and wide receivers Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins with concussions. Veteran defensive end Randy Starks was also declared out with a knee injury.

Below is the final full injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: WR Marlon Brown (back), TE Chase Ford (shoulder), T Eugene Monroe (shoulder), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Shareece Wright (back)
PROBABLE: TE Nick Boyle (foot)

CLEVELAND
OUT: WR Taylor Gabriel (concussion), CB Joe Haden (concussion), WR Andrew Hawkins (concussion), DE Randy Starks (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: G Joel Bitonio (ankle), LB Nate Orchard (groin)
PROBABLE: QB Johnny Manziel (right elbow), QB Josh McCown (ribs), S Donte Whitner (concussion)

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Ravens officially place Forsett on IR, activate Urban

Posted on 27 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — What was a formality became official on Friday when the Ravens placed running back Justin Forsett on injured reserve and elevated defensive end Brent Urban to the 53-man roster.

Forsett suffered a broken right forearm in Sunday’s win over St. Louis. The injury will sidelined him for the rest of the season, but the 30-year-old is expected to be ready to participate in the Ravens’ offseason workout program.

Head coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that Urban would be activated from injured reserve with the designation to return. The second-year defensive lineman suffered a torn biceps in early August, but he began a 21-day practice window on Nov. 9 and needed to be placed on the 53-man roster by Monday.

Returning to the practice field after the Thanksgiving holiday, the Ravens again were without the starting left side of their offensive line as tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) and guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) were both absent on Friday. Should the pair not be able to play against Cleveland on Monday night, the Ravens would use James Hurst at left tackle and Ryan Jensen at left guard.

“I thought he did very well. He played fast,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman about Jensen in his first NFL start. “I thought it was a really good start for him. And [John] Urschel moving in at center again did a very nice job as well.”

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) also remained sidelined with a back injury after he played just four offensive snaps against the Rams on Sunday.

The only new addition to Friday’s injury report was cornerback Shareece Wright, who was a limited participant due to a back issue.

Tight end Nick Boyle (foot) was again practicing fully after missing his first game of the season in Week 11.

The Browns continued to practice without several key players, but starting guard Joel Bitonio (ankle) participated on a limited basis on Friday.

Below is Friday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marlon Brown (back), OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Shareece Wright (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Nick Boyle (foot)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Taylor Gabriel (concussion), CB Joe Haden (concussion), WR Andrew Hawkins (concussion), DE Randy Starks (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Joel Bitonio (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Johnny Manziel (right elbow), QB Josh McCown (ribs), S Donte Whitner (concussion)

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Monroe remains sidelined with shoulder injury

Posted on 26 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Having already missed four full games and left three others due to injuries this season, Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe is once again dealing with a shoulder issue ahead of Monday night’s game against Cleveland.

Baltimore did not practice on Thanksgiving, but an estimated injury report included the seventh-year lineman as a non-participant after he did not practice on Wednesday. In the third quarter of Sunday’s win over St. Louis, Monroe re-aggravated a shoulder injury suffered last month and is once again ailing in what’s been a disappointing season for the left tackle.

“I think it’s a little bit related,” said head coach John Harbaugh about Monroe’s shoulder on Monday. “It goes back to a college injury that he had, I was told. We’ll just see how that progresses during the course of the week.”

Filling in for Monroe against the Rams, second-year tackle James Hurst fell into Joe Flacco’s left knee on the final drive of the game, causing a season-ending to the franchise quarterback. Pro Football Focus has graded Hurst as the third-worst offensive tackle in the NFL this season.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele was listed as a limited participant on Thursday as he continues to deal with a knee injury that sidelined him for Week 11. It remains unclear whether he will return against the Browns after Ryan Jensen started in Osemele’s place against St. Louis.

“I really don’t have any update on that,” Harbaugh said on Wednesday. “It’s just he’s working through some things physically.”

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) missed practice on Wednesday and was also listed as a non-participant on Thursday. He played a season-low four snaps on Sunday.

In positive news, rookie tight end Nick Boyle was listed as a full participant after his left foot was in a walking boot last week, forcing him to miss his first NFL game.

Meanwhile, the Browns are dealing with a number of injuries as four starters missed practice on Thursday. Cornerback Joe Haden and wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel are all recovering from concussions.

Below is the full injury report:

BALTIMORE
OUT: RB Justin Forsett (arm)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marlon Brown (back), OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Nick Boyle (foot)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Joel Bitonio (ankle), WR Taylor Gabriel (concussion), CB Joe Haden (concussion), WR Andrew Hawkins (concussion), DE Randy Starks (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Johnny Manziel (right elbow), QB Josh McCown (ribs), S Donte Whitner (concussion)

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Ravens defensive end Urban to be elevated to 53-man roster

Posted on 25 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Now in his third week of practice since returning from a torn biceps, Ravens defensive end Brent Urban will be elevated to the 53-man roster.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not immediately announce an official roster move as Urban would not have to be placed on the active roster until Monday if Baltimore elected to wait. The 2014 fourth-round pick injured his biceps in early August and was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return at the start of the regular season.

“Whether he’ll be active or not and play in the [Cleveland] game, we’ll have to figure that out, but Brent will come up and be on the 53-man,” Harbaugh said. “He’s done a really good job. He’s worked hard; he looks good. It’s going to be exciting to see him in real action at some point in time and see how he does, because he hasn’t played that much. But he’s practiced really well.”

It remains unclear when the move will be made official as running back Justin Forsett has yet to be placed on IR after suffering a broken right forearm in Sunday’s win over St. Louis. The Ravens are currently ailing along the offensive line with left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) and left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) both injured and missing practice on Wednesday, so they may also need to add an offensive lineman to the roster ahead of Monday’s game with Cleveland.

Urban’s 21-day practice window doesn’t expire until Sunday, meaning he can continue to participate without being added to the active roster until then.

In addition to Osemele and Monroe, wide receiver Marlon Brown was also absent from Wednesday’s practice after playing only four offensive snaps against St. Louis.

Rookie tight end Nick Boyle returned to practice after missing the Rams game with a left foot injury that had him in a walking boot last week.

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Bernard Bokenyi talks Cleveland’s gritty overtime win in Baltimore

Posted on 13 October 2015 by WNST Staff

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Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, left, and defensive coordinator Dean Pees look on during an NFL football practice at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md., Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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Harbaugh not considering any coaching changes

Posted on 12 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens off to the first 1-4 start in franchise history, many fans are clamoring for changes in a season that began with high expectations.

Despite a slew of injuries to key players, fourth-year defensive coordinator Dean Pees has drawn much of the coaching criticism, but Harbaugh made his intentions clear Monday when asked whether he was considering any staff changes at this time.

“No, no way. No, our coaches are doing a good job,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve just got to collectively find a way to finish games and get the job done. We’ve got tough challenges that we’re facing, but we’ve got just the men for the job right here.”

After giving up 33 points and 505 total yards while allowing Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown to throw for 457 yards — the third-highest total allowed in franchise history — in Sunday’s overtime loss, the Ravens now rank 24th in points allowed per game (27.4) and 25th in pass defense (278.2 yards through the air per contest). McCown’s performance was the highest passing yardage total in the long history of the Browns.

In addition to already being without linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and defensive end Chris Canty (calf) prior to Sunday’s game, the Ravens lost linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin) and cornerbacks Will Davis (torn ACL), Lardarius Webb (hamstring), and Kyle Arrington (concussion testing) over the course of the game.

Even with those substantial personnel losses, the Ravens allowing 24 points to Cleveland in a 25-minute span — the Browns had scored 24 in an entire game against Baltimore just once in the previous 12 meetings — is unacceptable to the standards of the organization and fans alike. But Harbaugh believes the answers still lie with the coaches and players already in the building as their four losses have come by a combined 17 points.

“We definitely believe in what we’re doing,” said Harbaugh, who also stated that he’s challenging his coaches to come up with new ideas. “We definitely have confidence in the players that we have and in the coaches that we have and in the schemes that we’re running.

“But you also look for ways to improve and get better, so we’re looking at schemes. We’re looking at things we can teach a little bit differently — the way we’re playing a technique on the defensive line or the way we’re playing a technique in the back end. More importantly, we want to play the things right all the time.”

Poor technique, poor tackling, costly penalties, and miscommunication have all plagued the defense so far in 2015. The Ravens also rank 31st out of 32 teams in third-down defense with opponents moving the chains a staggering 49.4 percent of the time.

Known as the Ravens’ biggest game-changing unit for the better part of two decades, the defense has squandered fourth-quarter leaders in three of four losses this season. It’s the kind of futility that should have everyone on alert — coaches and players.

Harbaugh knows the Ravens need to improve all the way around, but figuring out how is the challenge.

“We don’t need to play harder; we need to play better,” Harbaugh said. “We don’t need to coach harder; we need to coach better. We’ve got to find a way to make the difference. It’s making plays. It’s calling plays that give guys a chance to make plays in critical situations to get you over the hump.”

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Ravens cornerback Davis lost for season with torn ACL

Posted on 12 October 2015 by Luke Jones

A season from hell continues to grow worse for the Ravens as cornerback Will Davis suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns.

The third-year defensive back sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the second quarter of the 33-30 overtime defeat. Acquired from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a 2016 seventh-round pick last month, Davis suffered a torn ACL in his right knee last November.

The 2013 third-round pick from Utah State had played well in his brief time with the Ravens and had become the No. 3 cornerback over veteran Kyle Arrington and the inexperienced Rashaan Melvin. Davis played seven snaps on Sunday before leaving the game in the second quarter.

“He’ll be out for the season, which is tough for him,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who added that he was “99 percent” that Davis injured the opposite knee this time. “He was playing at a really high level.”

Davis’ knee injury is the latest in the Ravens’ nightmarish run of bad health at the cornerback position dating back to last year. Starter Lardarius Webb also left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury in the second quarter and didn’t return.

Baltimore has two cornerbacks on its practice squad — Charles James and Asa Jackson — and general manager Ozzie Newsome cannot be picky in the search for Davis’ replacement as the Ravens possess less than $2 million in cap space. Currently, the 53-man roster holds just four healthy cornerbacks — Jimmy Smith, Arrington, Melvin, and rookie Tray Walker — but second-year safety Terrence Brooks saw extensive time at the nickel spot on Sunday.

“It’s not that late,” said Harbaugh about the ability to find more help at the position. “When you start getting past this time — close to the midway point — that’s when [the market] kind of dries up on you. But there are some corners out there right now that can play and we’re looking at those guys and we have a couple guys on our practice roster, too.”

Other Ravens players injured in Week 5 included linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin), running back Justin Forsett (ankle), and wide receiver Darren Waller (concussion).

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Beaten up and bad: Ravens defense nevermore in 2015

Posted on 12 October 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The single voice of a Browns fan barking in the lower concourse of M&T Bank Stadium could be heard moments after the Ravens’ 33-30 overtime loss to Cleveland on Sunday.

It was a sound that may have signaled the official end of an era we’ve enjoyed for more than 15 years. Of course, the fall of the Ravens defense didn’t happen overnight as we’ve watched future Hall of Famers ride off into the sunset and other perennial Pro Bowl selections depart, but a unit in transition had still possessed enough talent and swagger to find ways to be more good than bad over the last couple years. Sunday’s performance eliminated any lingering optimism about a defense that had already played poorly at Oakland in Week 2 and was torched by Andy Dalton and Cincinnati in the home opener two weeks ago.

Nevermore.

If giving up 33 points, 505 yards of offense, and 457 passing yards to Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns — yes, the AFC North doormats that hadn’t won in Baltimore since the George W. Bush administration — isn’t rock bottom, I don’t know what it is. Allowing Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or even Philip Rivers to post those kinds of numbers is one thing, but a 36-year-old journeyman shredding you in your own stadium?

Baltimore may still field a defense, but it’s no longer a group worthy of being called a “Ravens” defense.

“I put this on the defense as a whole. We didn’t come through [Sunday],” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “We were supposed to show up, and we did not show up in the second half.”

Of course, it’d be unfair to rip the defense without acknowledging how ravaged the group was by injuries by the time the Ravens entered overtime on Sunday afternoon. Already without Terrell Suggs and Chris Canty long before Sunday’s game, the Ravens lost their only reliable pass rusher (Elvis Dumervil) and their No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks (Lardarius Webb and Will Davis) in the first half, injuries that caused the defense to completely unravel after a respectable “bend, but don’t break” performance over the first 30 minutes.

In overtime, another injury to No. 4 cornerback Kyle Arrington led to rookie Tray Walker playing in the base defense after he’d been a healthy inactive in Pittsburgh last week. A reflection of how little confidence they had in Walker, the Ravens used second-year safety Terrence Brooks at the nickel spot earlier in the game before having no choice but to go to the 2015 fourth-round pick in crunch time.

With the modern reality of the salary cap and other circumstances contributing to where the Ravens currently stand, they knew all along they could only take so many injuries after the offseason departures of Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee. Deep depth is a rarity in the NFL these days, and the Ravens are learning that painful lesson in the midst of the worst start in the 20-year history of the franchise.

“Whoever is out there has to play well. Whoever is out there has to get the job done,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s what has to happen. That goes for all of us. As coaches, we have to find a way to put whoever is out there in a kind of position where they can be successful. That all goes hand-in-hand. And that was a very winnable game. We should have won.”

The phrase “next man up” has been a rallying cry in Baltimore for years, but the words have never rung more hollow. The Ravens simply aren’t talented enough with an array of issues on both sides of the ball that are haunting them in some form every week. Blame defensive coordinator Dean Pees as much as you’d like — he needs to own a mess that could ultimately cost him his job — but a defense can only survive so much attrition, whether by injuries or free-agent departures or underwhelming draft picks.

In truth, an offense consisting of receivers and tight ends who required a program to identify scoring 30 points on Sunday should have been more than enough with even an average defensive performance against the Browns, who entered Sunday’s game ranked 20th in the NFL in total offense and points scored.

The defense can’t solely blame the injuries for its demise as the Ravens racked up penalties at crucial times — veteran Jason Babin committed infractions on two different Browns’ touchdown drives in the second half — and key performers such as linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley and safety Will Hill also played poorly. If the defense can’t even tackle or count on its known commodities to make plays, what chance does the group really have?

They may be wearing purple and black, but you certainly don’t recognize a defense allowing 27.4 points per game, just a hair better than the franchise-worst 27.6 per contest allowed in the inaugural 1996 campaign. In five games, Baltimore has already allowed 137 points, just 28 fewer than the record-setting 2000 defense surrendered in an entire regular season.

Late in the game on Sunday, which figure in the defensive huddle could players turn to for an emotional lift? Forget having a Ray Lewis or Ed Reed or Suggs; the Ravens didn’t even have a player like Dumervil to make everyone believe they could force a stop.

The Baltimore defense was a ship without a captain in the second half. And it sank hard.

“We’re disappointed, because we know what kind of team we are,” said Mosley, who struggled mightily in pass coverage throughout the game. “We know how [hard] we work, and we’re definitely better than 1-4. We’ve just got to put our foot down and prove that. We play hard, but we’ve just got to finish as a team.”

The Ravens keep talking about their need to finish games and to get off the field on third down — Cleveland went 12-for-19 in that department on Sunday — but they appear more “finished” than able to finish in 2015 with Thanksgiving still more than a month away.

They’re beaten up and bad with no relief in sight as back-to-back West Coast trips loom. Nothing is a given moving forward when you lose to the Browns at home for the first time since 2007 and only the fourth time ever in Baltimore.

Instead of fans celebrating a win with a chance to improve to .500 next week to reboot the season, all that could be heard at the end of Sunday’s game was a single Browns fan barking in the concourse.

And the “Ravens” defense was nowhere to be found.

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