Coach John Harbaugh insisted he’d shift players around after the bye week, particularly on the offensive line which has given up 18 sacks of quarterback Joe Flacco which is five more than a season ago at this point.
He even hinted the Ravens might slow down the no-huddle offense.
He didn’t do any of that to start Sunday’s game at the Cleveland Browns, but the Ravens gave the ball to Ray Rice, who scored their first first-quarter touchdown since Week 2 and just their second touchdown on the road this season.
On the Ravens’ opening drive, Rice ran the ball six times for 32 yards, including from eight yards out for the score. In the Ravens' last game before the bye, a 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans, Rice only had nine total carries as Harbaugh admitted they abandoned the run too quickly.
Bernard Pierce, Rice's backup who averages more than 5 yards per carry, also got into the action early. On the Ravens' second drive, he carried the ball three times for 10 yards. He scored his first TD of the season on third-and-goal from 12 yards on a pitch back from Flacco.
With the Ravens in inside the Cleveland's 10-yard line, Pierce ran for a first down to the 3 but was called for a 15-yard penalty after the play. But he made up for it.
Pierce ended the quarter with four carries for 25 yards. Rice had 11 for 58.
Harbaugh’s change to the defensive line was out of necessity though expected because of a thigh injury to Pernell McPhee (thigh). His backup, Arthur Jones, got the start.
The Ravens forced the Browns into consecutive three plays-and-out possessions, stopping them twice on third-and-1 plays.