Ravens have found an identity — ground and pound

They have also discovered a sense of urgency

December 04, 2011|Mike Preston

CLEVELAND — — The sofas are no longer needed.

If the Ravens had lost to another sub-.500 team on the road Sunday, it would have been time to put them all on the couch for some good psychological evaluation.

But the Ravens appear to be past that point. In fact, they probably turned the corner in trouncing a really, really, really bad Cleveland team.

It was beautiful, a work of art. The Ravens ran the ball a record 55 times for 290 yards. They held the Browns to 233 yards of total offense, and if it wasn't for a busted play or two, the Browns might not have entered Ravens territory as Colt McCoy was sacked three times and hurried all game.

The Ravens have found their identity. It's ground and pound on offense with the potential of airing it out if necessary, but they want to rely more on running back Ray Rice and keeping their defense off the field and rested.

The Ravens finally found a sense of urgency.

"To get this one on the road definitely does something for our confidence," Rice said. "We know we control own destiny. Regardless of who we play, we have to take care of business.

"I think we're a December, January team. If you want to put it out there, it would be great to have a playoff game in Baltimore. We know what our fans bring. We've got some games left — Indy, San Diego, Cleveland again and Cincinnati — but I think we're on the right track now."

Cundiff misses

Billy Cundiff, the Ravens' usually reliable place kicker, missed field-goal attempts of 34 and 41 yards in the second quarter before converting on a 21-yarder with 17 seconds left in the half.

Because of the Ravens' new approach of running the ball more often and their failures inside the red zone and in short-yardage situations, it's essential that the Ravens have a strong kicker.

In Cundiff's defense, it rained during the entire game Sunday and there was a stiff wind blowing down into the Dawg Pound, the area in which Cundiff was kicking his field goals.

"It's the worst possible situation," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh of Cundiff's attempts. "We would have liked to have gotten him in a little better situation there, maybe on the left hash, but what you had was really bad footing, a crosswind coming from the Dawg Pound. We knew that we weren't going to be able to go very deep there because of the crosswind down there in that corner. In that situation, you've got to trust in him and say he is a pro, and he'll get it worked out."

Secondary miscommunication

There should be some concern about the coverage in the secondary. For the past couple of weeks, the Ravens have given up big plays and they blame it on a lack of communication.

That's OK if you're competing against Alex Smith and McCoy, but that will get you eaten up against Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

The Ravens need to get some of those things straightened out before the post season begins.

New wrinkle

It's a great idea the Ravens came up with using rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor on goal-line situations. He's a threat to go outside and it keeps the defensive ends and outside linebackers from crashing down to stop runs inside.

Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson have struggled in short-yardage situations and bringing in Taylor might give them an extra second to make a block once those defensive ends or linebackers pause.

Stop the reverse

If the Ravens don't run another reverse during the season, there won't be any disappointment. For whatever reason(s), the play usually produces negative yards.

The Ravens scrapped it for a while, but it resurfaced again Sunday. I say put it in the closet and resurrect it next year.

Wrong side

I favored the Ravens going for it on fourth-and-one at the Cleveland 26 with 7:13 left in the first quarter, but they should have run left instead of right. Before Rice's ill-fated run to the right which came up short, the Ravens had run four plays to the left for nearly 50 yards, and left guard Ben Grubbs and tackle Bryant McKinnie were dominating.

There's the beef

There is a heavy jumbo package and then there is a heavy, heavy jumbo package.

The Ravens went unbalanced line several times Sunday, and at one time had Grubbs (310 pounds), McKinnie (360), Michael Oher (315) and Jah Reid (335) on the left side.

That's a lot of beef.

Browns are in trouble

The Browns are in a sorry state.

Not only do they still have fans whining about the Browns leaving Cleveland for Baltimore in 1995-96, but their stadium was barely half filled for the game.

You know a team is in trouble when the biggest debate on the radio here is whether the team should keep running back Peyton Hillis or pay the big money to receiver/returner Joshua Cribbs.

I wouldn't write a big check for either.

Huh?

The officials reversed the call on Jordan Norwood's reception which he later fumbled and the Ravens recovered early in the second quarter.

According to the officials, replay showed that Norwood didn't have control of the ball. The instant replay I saw showed that Norwood had control and took two steps.

But what do you expect? It's Cleveland.

McCoy struggled

On the Browns' last series of the first half, it appears as if McCoy was on the Ravens' payroll.

He had two straight passes close to being intercepted and returned for touchdowns by Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb before rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith jumped in front of pass and returned it 32 yards down to the Cleveland 15.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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