Final score: Ravens 14, Browns 6
Game recap: As poorly as they played offensively, the Ravens were fortunate to trail only 6-0 at halftime. They never reached the red zone in the first half, and normally reliable kicker Justin Tucker even missed two field goal attempts.
However, the Ravens’ defense carried the day. The pass rush put serious pressure on Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden from start to finish, and the momentum of the game finally shifted. The Ravens took a 7-6 lead in the third quarter on a five-yard TD run by Bernard Pierce, then tacked on a five-yard TD pass from Joe Flacco to rookie Marlon Brown in the fourth quarter. Browns running back Trent Richardson (18 carries, 58 yards) was held in check, and the Browns couldn’t move the ball consistently enough to come back.
Flacco and Ravens coach John Harbaugh are now 11-0 vs. Browns.
Key injury: The Ravens lost running back Ray Rice with a left hip injury early in the fourth quarter. Rice was carrying the ball, running to his right, when he went to the turf without being tackled. The crowd went silent as Rice stayed on the turf, but he rose to his feet about a minute later, and limped to the sideline. Rice immediately went to the locker room to be evaluated. There was no immediate word on Rice’s condition, but the Ravens will be hoping it’s not serous. Losing Rice for any length of time would be a major blow.
Key moment: Pierce’s TD run. Once the Ravens took the lead, the offensively challenged Browns were in trouble. Pierce provided a major spark, breaking tackles on an eight-yard run that immediately preceded his touchdown run. Pierce will be even more important if Rice misses action.
Ravens players of the game:
Offense: Torrey Smith, LB
This could also go to Pierce, but Smith (seven catches, 85 yards) had a solid game despite being shadowed by Browns cornerback Joe Haden, one of the NFL’s best cover corners. Smith continues to develop as a complete receiver, not just a home run threat.
Defense: Terrell Suggs, LB
Many Ravens played well defensively, and Harbaugh changed the secondary, starting rookie Matt Elam at safety in place of Michael Huff, and Jimmy Smith at corner in place of Corey Graham. But Suggs and Elvis Dumervil put tremendous pressure coming off the edges on Weeden. Suggs is back to being an impact player, and the Ravens will need that going forward.
DE Chris Canty did not play most of the second half with an undisclosed injury.
In the Locker Room
Marlon Brown, Ravens WR: "To come into a team where they have some wide receiver issues, I had an opportunity to start playing early. I've just been trying to seize every opportunity I get."
Ravens LB Terrell Suggs: "You're got to have a short memory. You definitely don't want to give up 49 points every week."
Browns QB Brandon Weeden: "I hit it (injured thumb) on a helmet. I found I couldn't grip the ball, so I knew I couldn't come out. It really hurts Baltimore has a good front four. They're tough to block. Don't forget, they're the Super Bowl champions."