It's difficult to draw the line between how dominant the Ravens defense was and how terrible the Browns offense played Monday night.
But either way, the Ravens defense was definitely effective.
The Ravens posted their ninth shutout since 2000 -- the most of any NFL team -- but first since Nov. 26, 2006, when they manhandled the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While that shutout was likely more impressive than halting the owners of the NFL's second-worst offense, Monday's effort still left the much-scrutinized Ravens defense feeling good.
"Anytime you're in the NFL and you get a shutout, it's big," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Cleveland had two weeks to prepare for us, and they were going to come out and give their best."
The best the Browns offense could do was reaching Baltimore's 45-yard line. The Ravens forced two interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown), sacked Browns quarterback Brady Quinn four times and forced a fumble. Baltimore made seven tackles for loss and batted down eight passes.
All that added up to just 171 total yards for the Browns, a season-best for the Ravens defense. The Browns, who have scored just five touchdowns all season, also scratched together only 186 total yards in their Week 3 meeting with the Ravens, a game in which Brady was yanked at halftime.
"We played tremendously well on defense really throughout the game," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "Anytime you get a shutout, that's just a credit to the defense."
Harbaugh said the shutout was no small feat considering the difficult formations and alignments the Browns worked into their offense over their bye week. The Browns used the Wildcat formation on several occasions and often put the ball in playmaker Joshua Cribbs' hands.
But one thing the Browns didn't do is challenge the Ravens with deep passes – which has been Baltimore's soft spot all season. Cleveland attempted just two passes of more than 15 yards the entire game before two desperation heaves on its final drive, both of which landed far out of bounds.
Instead, the Browns relied heavily on the short passing game into the flats, where the Ravens cornerbacks and linebackers did a solid job of cutting down Cleveland for short gains. Quinn did not have much time to allow big plays to develop either, as the Ravens consistently put pressure on the third-year signal caller, who was making his seventh career start.
"We had a lot of pressure with our front four. Then, we tried to throw the blitz in there as a change-up," said defensive end Trevor Pryce, who notched a sack. "They were lining up so quick that we almost couldn't blitz. It was a rush. ... We could have had a lot more [sacks] but he got rid of the ball quickly."
Baltimore's two interceptions came off poor throws by Quinn. On the first, he led tight end Robert Royal too far and the ball tipped off Royal's fingertips straight into Dawan Landry's hands. Landry returned his third interception of the season 48 yards for a touchdown to give the Ravens breathing room.
The second interception came two passes later when Quinn threw a bit behind receiver Mike Furrey. The ball bounced off Furrey's hands and this time straight to Chris Carr for the easy interception. That led to a Ravens field goal for the final 16-0 margin.
A week after surrendering 117 rushing yards to Cincinnati's Cedric Benson, Baltimore's run defense plugged the holes against the Browns. Jamal Lewis took Cleveland's first play from scrimmage 14 yards up the middle, but carried the ball just nine more times for 22 yards after that.
Also consider that the Ravens were without massive defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who missed his second straight game with an ankle injury, and linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs left the game in the third quarter after injuring his knee.
"It is a really physical front and physical running back, so stopping the run first of all was a challenge, but we did that," Harbaugh said. "To get the pressure out of the four-man rush was a plus. That was probably the key to the game on defense."
Now the Ravens defense will have the tall task of trying to string together back-to-back stellar outings, a feat it has not accomplished yet this season. And it will not be easy as Peyton Manning and the undefeated Indianapolis Colts come to Baltimore on Sunday.