ReFo: Ravens @ Browns, Week 9
The Browns staked their claim to AFC North contention in this game. Gordon McGuinness looks at the game and breaks down the performances of note.
ReFo: Ravens @ Browns, Week 9
In an encounter that was as close and scrappy as many predicted, the Cleveland Browns were able to outlast the Baltimore Ravens at home, snapping an 11 game losing streak against the defending Super Bowl Champions.
For the Browns the victory felt deserved as much for the way they have played recently as well as just their play yesterday, with quarterback Jason Campbell proving the coaches right for going with him at quarterback over Brandon Weeden. Meanwhile, this loss leaves the Ravens teetering precariously on the brink of post season significance, with the performance even more demoralizing than the loss.
It was a close divisional battle that featured some important performances on both sides of the ball, so with that in mind, let’s take a look at the standout performances from this one.
Three Performances of Note – Baltimore
We’ve come to expect this from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (-3.9), but once again he fell apart on the road, failing to generate much on offense for the Ravens barring the two touchdown drives. Once again he had his struggles downfield, completing just five of the 17 passes he attempted beyond 10 yards. That’s rarely going to be enough to win in the NFL these days, even when you complete 19 of the 22 passes you throw that travel nine yards or less through the air.
Particularly troubling were his struggles when he wasn’t under pressure, with him missing open receivers far too often when he had a clean pocket to work with. Even when he was completing passes downfield, he still left a lot to be desired. Take a look at the 46 yard completion to Torrey Smith on 2nd-and-10 with 30 seconds left in the first half. Smith had beaten both cornerback Joe Haden and safety Tashaun Gibson, but the pass from Flacco was underthrown, allowing the defensive backs to get into position and prevent Smith getting to the end zone. Flacco’s play has told the story of the Ravens’ season so far, and unless he improves, it’s hard to see this team making the playoffs.
Costly Missed Tackles for Safeties
It was a mixed bag for starting safeties James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam on Sunday, with both having some nice plays against the run. So good against the run were they in fact, that they finished with Run Stop Percentages of 15.4% and 16.7% respectively. They were unable to replicate that success in coverage however, combining to miss three tackles that proved costly for the Ravens.
Ihedigbo may have only given up three receptions for 18 yards, but that did included a touchdown. However, the bigger problem came from his two missed tackles. Though he wasn’t in primary coverage for either play, the two misses allowed Browns’ receiver Greg Little to pick up significantly more yardage. Take a look at the play on 1st-and-10 with 11:25 to go in the opening quarter, with Little cutting past both of he and Elam and gaining an extra 15 yards — not what you want from your two starting safeties.
The Good and Bad of Terrell Suggs
To look at Terrell Suggs’ sack numbers on the year, it probably comes as a surprise to see his pass rush grade for the year at merely +4.0. Sack numbers can be misleading however, and this game provided good evidence of that. His sack came on the opening play of the game, but it was the work of Arthur Jones that flushed Campbell towards Suggs, as opposed to Suggs getting the better of right tackle Mitchell Schwartz to get to him. More important than that however, is that from 29 total pass rushing attempts, that sack and a single quarterback hurry were all he could produce.
However, while he may have been lackluster as a pass rusher, he was once again the Ravens best defender against the run. From just 19 snaps in run defense, he would come away with three solo tackles, all of which resulted in a defensive stop. That gave him a RSP of 15.8%, currently the best mark of all outside linebacker with enough qualifying snaps in Week 9.
Three Performances of Note – Cleveland
Cornerbacks Lead the Way
The Browns strong defensive performance was lead by the fantastic play of starting cornerbacks Joe Haden (+2.4) and Chris Owens (+3.3). Each targeted seven times by Flacco, they left him with plenty to think about. Haden allowed three receptions for 64 yards, with the long pass to Smith the one play he’d love to have back. However he was able to intercept one pass and break up another, and limited Smith to just two receptions for 12 yards from the other five passes thrown into his coverage.
Owens allowed one more reception than his team mate, but the four receptions he did allow went for just 27 yards, with a mere five yards after the catch combined. He wasn’t able to pick off Flacco, but in breaking up two passes was just as active as Haden. All in all he finished the game having allowed 0.57 Yards Per Coverage Snap, currently the 11th best mark from the cornerback from Week 9.
Little’s Big Day
While the Browns couldn’t get the combination of Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon going on Sunday, they did get a big day out of the much maligned Little. Finishing the game with seven receptions for 122 yards, perhaps the most crucial stat is that he managed to finish the game without a drop, after coming into the game with five on the year so far. Dangerous with the ball in his hands, 63 of his yards came after the catch with three missed tackles forced.
So why did he finish the game with a grade of -0.3 despite all of that? Well, for all the good he did, he also cost the Browns 30 yards on two stupid penalties, one for taunting and the other for tossing an opponent’s helmet to the sideline. His big performance as a receiver managed to prevent those mistakes from proving costly, but it highlights where he needs to keep his emotions in check on the field.
Rubin Against the Run
When you find yourself limited in snaps against the run, as Ahtyba Rubin (+2.1) did on Sunday, it’s best to make the most of them. His RSP of 28.6%, coming from two tackles resulting in defensive stops, is currently the third best mark amongst all 3-4 defensive ends in Week 9. Particularly impressive was his tackle for loss on 1st-and-10 with 5:06 left in the third quarter. Beating center Gino Gradkowski straight off the snap, he was able to haul down running back Bernard Pierce for a three yard loss. It has long been the strength of his game, and it was once again on display on Sunday, with perhaps the only disappointment that we didn’t get to see even more of him.
– Ray Rice failed to force a missed tackle as a runner once again, with his total for the year at just four from 97 carries.
– Gradkowski (+1.4) had his best game of the year, and looks to have turned the corner after a poor start to the year.
– The Browns ran off right guard eight times, picking up just 14 yards in the process.
PFF Game Ball
In a game where three Browns’ players stood out beyond the rest, Greg Little let himself down with two penalties. Because of that, and their own fantastic play, the game ball gets split between cornerbacks Chris Owens and Joe Haden.
Follow Gordon on Twitter.
Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.