Ravens Eye View: What Happened on Ravens' Fourth-Quarter Letdown vs. Browns

Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku is tackled by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen during the second half on an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Baltimore.

The Ravens' 33-31 loss to the Cleveland Browns Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium was an odd one.

On one hand, the Ravens had a 97% chance of winning, per Next Gen Stats, in the fourth quarter. They also had several near misses that would've resulted in more points.

On the other hand, Baltimore was dramatically outgained in yardage and made significantly more mistakes than it did in the previous four straight wins.

Here's what stood out on tape:

Much of the talk surrounding the Ravens after the loss is about how they gave up another fourth-quarter lead, which has been a problem not only in all three of their losses this season, but beyond.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the Ravens "don't have time to dig into the psychology" of what could be going wrong, adding, "we're just looking at the football. We fix the football."

The Browns had only three offensive drives in the second half. They went 75 yards (touchdown), 75 yards (touchdown), and 58 yards (game-winning field goal). What the tape shows is a combination of bad luck, bad tackling, and soft coverage.

First, let's look at the luck. The first touchdown drive had a couple strange plays doing some of the damage. Jordan Akins was knocked down on one play but still got up to catch a pass for an 8-yard gain. David Njoku was also seemingly blocked out of a play, only to have the ball come his way.

The Browns capped that drive with a 3-yard touchdown run by Kareem Hunt, who could've been stopped for a loss. Roquan Smith made a staggering 21 tackles, but just missed this one because he tripped.

On the Browns' next drive, trailing 31-17, Justin Madubuike kicked things off with a sack. This is when the Ravens' chances of getting a win peaked.

However, on the very next second-and-15 play, the Ravens had too soft of coverage over the top and Deshaun Watson easily connected with Amari Cooper for a 25-yard gain. Then Njoku took a short pass and easy catch, but broke multiple tackles getting up field for a 23-yard gain. 

After a questionable pass interference call on Rock Ya-Sin gave the Browns the ball at the 10-yard line, they punched it in when Watson, once again, broke out of containment in the pocket and found a wide-open Elijah Moore.

The Browns' game-winning drive came down to three plays. 

Again, the Ravens came up with a monster sack that could've won the game when Odafe Oweh turned the corner and pounced on Watson, forcing the fumble. But Browns right guard Wyatt Teller, who had a physical and good game overall, was at the right place at the right time and pounced on it. That could have been the game-sealing play for the Ravens.

On second-and-19, Watson made one of his best throws of the game with a strike to Cooper for 17 yards despite tight coverage by Ya-Sin. 

Watson followed that up by breaking through a tackle by Ravens outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy to scramble for 16 yards. The Browns needed just one more good chunk to get into field goal range and got it when Jerome Ford ran off right guard (again) and Geno Stone missed a tackle. The Browns got behind him and pushed the pile more than five yards after he was seemingly stopped.

Overall, the Ravens defense did not devote many extra bodies to stopping the Browns' rushing attack and didn't tackle well when they had the chance.

Baltimore also blitzed only four times in the game, though Watson went 4-for-4 against it for 39 yards. All four of the Ravens' sacks came without a blitz versus Cleveland's backup offensive tackles. Watson, who didn't miss a throw in the second half, had arguably his best game as a Brown and it came at the worst time for the Ravens. 

Offensively, the Ravens started hot with a great throw by Lamar Jackson to Rashod Bateman and Keaton Mitchell's 39-yard touchdown run, which led Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to say to Mitchell, "I don't know where you came from, but you're good."

Mitchell also got the Ravens' second offensive drive going with a 32-yard gain on a running back screen. After struggling to get their screen game going this season, Mitchell finally popped one with help from left guard John Simpson.

But Mitchell missed an opportunity for a touchdown catch on a well-thrown fade by Jackson and the Ravens had to settle for a field goal.

The Ravens had a shot at more points on a second quarter drive, following back-to-back completions to Zay Flowers. The Browns played man coverage at a significantly higher rate against the Ravens (53.3% compared to 12.5% the week before against the Cardinals). That didn't work out well against Flowers, who was practically unguardable for Cleveland's cornerbacks.

However, the Browns' man coverage also dared the Ravens to take deep shots against them and Jackson had a chance for a long touchdown pass to Flowers that he missed. Jackson also later underthrew a deep pass that was easily intercepted.

Browns ended up giving the Ravens another shot, but a busted reverse with Mitchell lost seven yards and Jackson didn't get rid of the ball on what looked to be a double move opportunity to Odell Beckham Jr. and took a sack. To make matters worse, Justin Tucker's 55-yard field goal was blocked.

The Ravens did capitalize on the Browns' man-to-man coverage at times, including on Beckham's 40-yard touchdown on a slant and a 36-yard gain on a creative route by tight end Mark Andrews.

But overall, the Ravens' offensive issues were with pass protection against Myles Garrett, Za'Darius Smith and an attacking Browns defensive front that showed many different looks. Jackson was under pressure on 40% of his dropbacks and had a 45.1 passer rating in those situations (2-of-6 for 22 yards).

Even Jackson's pick-six interception was partially because of a bull rush pressure right into his face. Jackson's low throw intended for Patrick Ricard in the flat, hit the defender in the helmet. The pick-six changed the entire trajectory of the game.

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