The Ravens lost to the Browns, 13-3, in FirstEnergy Stadium to fall to 9-5 on the season.
Here are five thoughts on the Ravens' loss:
The Ravens ran the ball well again, but not much else.
The Ravens' formula for offensive success in Cleveland seemed straight forward. Baltimore has the No. 2-ranked rushing attack in the league, as J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and the offensive line were rolling.
Conversely, the Browns have struggled to stop the run, and they lost one of their starting inside linebackers this week. It was a major mismatch in the Ravens' favor. Baltimore won that matchup handily, piling up 198 rushing yards. And yet the Ravens scored just three points.
"We did the things we do well well once again. Classic Ravens football," guard Kevin Zeitler said. "But some of the things that have been biting us came back to bite us once again."
Dobbins ran for 125 yards and averaged 9.6 yards per carry. Edwards rumbled for 55 yards and 7.9 yards per carry. But the two combined for just 20 carries. Tyler Huntley threw 30 times, doing so for just 138 yards in a quick-release attack. The Ravens can't run it every single play, but it felt like a gift to the defense every time they dropped back to pass in this game.
The Ravens' passing attack was not good enough and it hasn't been good enough for some time. And their problems in the red zone are an issue they haven't been able to put more than a short-term Band-Aid over. This time, it got worse as they not only didn't score touchdowns, but also turned the ball over.
Lamar Jackson being sidelined for a second-straight week by a knee injury is absolutely a contributing factor in the passing struggles, but it's not the only factor. It's understood that the Ravens' ground attack is their bread and butter, but Baltimore's passing attack has to be better than this.
The Ravens have scored just two touchdowns in their past three games. That isn't going to cut it. This defense is good, but not that good.
"We have to just have a better passing game, basically," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It's not a good enough passing game right now across the board to do the things that we're hoping to do. So, that will be priority one."
Fourth downs and turnovers made the difference.
In a low-scoring affair like this, it often comes down to a few critical plays. In a game that lacked splashy offensive plays, it was a tale of fourth downs and turnovers.
On their first offensive drive, the Ravens went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Cleveland 7-yard line. A fullback dive with Pat Ricard was stuffed. After holding the Browns to a three-and-out on their first series, a 10-play, 71-yard drive by the Ravens ended with zero points. Ouch.
"I felt like we were going to get it," Harbaugh said. "They got theirs, and it led to a touchdown. So, the bottom line is execution, but if we're not going to get them, we'll kick them."
On one hand, three points in a low-scoring game like this would have been nice. On the other hand, a touchdown in a low-scoring game is huge. The Browns proved that later in the game.
Late in the third quarter, the Browns went for it on fourth-and-1 from the 9-yard line and got it on a Nick Chubb run up the middle. They scored a touchdown three plays later to take a 10-point lead. Nobody in Cleveland will be questioning Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski's decision to go for it because it worked out. Making it a two-score game was massive.
The Ravens failed on another fourth down midway through the fourth quarter. The Browns converted a fourth down two minutes later.
Huntley's interception on the Ravens' opening drive of the second half, in which they were in position to tie the game or take the lead, was a punch to the gut. Demarcus Robinson's fumble on the first play of the next series piled onto the misery. Conversely, the Ravens defense got zero takeaways – an area in which they have feasted this year.
The way this offense is playing right now, the Ravens have to convert in key situations and win the turnover battle to win the game. They did neither in Cleveland.
Justin Tucker has a rare bad night, but this isn't on him.
You know things aren't going well when even Justin Tucker has a bad night.
Tucker's 53-yarder in the first half gave him the most field goals in Ravens franchise history (355), surpassing Matt Stover. The usual AutomaTUCK memes were broken out once again. But that's when things went south for the G.O.A.T.
First, he hooked one from 48 yards out to end the first half with the Ravens trying to tie the game at 6 going into halftime. That was Tucker's first miss from under 50 yards this season. He had been 22-of-22.
Then Tucker's 50-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter was blocked as the Ravens tried to pull to a touchdown behind – another extreme rarity. The last time Tucker had two missed field goals in the same game was Dec. 22, 2018.
Perhaps we can chalk it up to a rough night for kicking overall. Browns kicker Cade York shanked two field goals as snow came down. This loss is not on Tucker's shoulders, despite what he told his teammates after the game.
"I think everybody in the locker room was like, 'Don't ever say that again,'" cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "He has won us too many games. He is the best for a reason. There is never a time when Justin Tucker loses us a game. He is great. That is the last person I think anyone is worried about at all."
Injuries may be the biggest lingering concern.
Jackson should be back soon, which will give the offense its biggest superstar. That won't solve all the offensive issues, but it will absolutely help.
However, seeing veteran defensive leaders Marcus Peters (calf) and Calais Campbell (knee) head to the locker room with injuries and not return is very concerning. Harbaugh didn't offer any updates after the game, saying the Ravens will know more tomorrow, presumably after more tests.
The Ravens will hold their breath, because those are two massive players on a defense that's going to have to stay mighty for Baltimore to push its way to a division crown.
The Ravens would need to turn to Brandon Stephens if Peters, their ball-hawking alpha, misses time. While the Ravens have more defensive line depth, Campbell is having a monster season. Adding to the pain is he had his 100th-career sack in his grasp when he got hit by his own teammate, and Deshaun Watson lateralled the ball instead of taking a sack.
The Ravens are still in good position to make the playoffs, but if they lose Peters and/or Campbell for extended time, it makes it that much harder to win the division or do much damage once they get into the dance.
- Brutal penalty on Justin Houston for grabbing Watson's facemask on what should have been a sack that forced a three-and-out and given Baltimore great starting field position in the third quarter. Instead, the penalty gave the Browns a free first down and they marched down the field for the game's only touchdown and a 10-point lead late in the third quarter. It seemed like one of those games when nothing could go right.
- Don't understand why the clock didn't stop on the Ravens' final drive of the first half when Isaiah Likely was clearly out of bounds. Still, that got exacerbated by a delay of game penalty coming out of a timeout. Harbaugh and Huntley said the delay of game was the result of headset issues as Huntley couldn't hear the play in his helmet.
- Dobbins had a second-straight 100-yard game, but it's still clear he's not all the way back. If he's totally healthy, he makes a house call instead of getting stopped for a 37-yard gain on that second-half run in which he broke wide open. "I don't have my speed yet," he said. Still, like Tucker, Dobbins shouldn't carry the weight of this loss.
- The Ravens are still one of a handful of teams who haven't given up a 100-yard rusher this season, but just barely. Chubb ran for 99 yards on 21 carries as the Browns and their offensive line leaned on Baltimore down the stretch.
- Watson hardly lit the world on fire, but he got hot in stretches in his first game against the Ravens as a Brown. He finished 18 of 28 for 161 yards and a touchdown. He also made some plays with his legs. Watson finished with a massive fist pump celebration to cap his first Ravens-Browns rivalry game.
- Mark Andrews led all Ravens with just 31 receiving yards. Robinson had six catches but they went for just 29 yards. Devin Duvernay had another tough night with two grabs for 29 yards and a fumble. He also didn't seem to run the route right on the interception. Huntley is a rhythm passer and the Ravens surely wanted to negate the Browns' pass rush and let their quarterback get into a rhythm. But the lack of anything down the field is putting too much stress on the entire operation.