The Ravens scored 25 unanswered points and put together the second-biggest comeback win in franchise history with a 25-20 victory over the division rival Cleveland Browns. The Ravens are now 2-0 to start the season, tied atop the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Here are seven takeaways from the game …
1) Cleveland Fans Can't Be Too Upset With Refs
The late taunting penalty on Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. no doubt proved to be critical at the end of the game, but it may not have been the only call from the refs that had a game-changing impact.
Pryor drew the flag after what seemed to be a harmless flip of the ball that hit safety Lardarius Webb's shoulder, and it offset a holding penalty on Webb. That meant Pryor's 20-yard catch, which would have put the ball at the Ravens' 10-yard line with 20 seconds to play, was wiped out and the Browns were still at the 30. Linebacker C.J. Mosley sealed Baltimore's win on the next play with an interception.
The Browns didn't criticize the refs after the game, but didn't agree with them either.
"I'm just saying there's other people that can catch a ball and spin it and look at players in the face," Pryor said, per The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "But if I get up and drop the ball – clearly I wasn't trying to drop it on nobody. But I'll let Coach Jackson handle that."
"I'm not going to say if it was or wasn't (taunting)," Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson said. "I haven't seen it. I've heard different sides of it, but they called it so we have to do a better job of making sure that we get the ball to the official and go from there."
But if you're perusing social media, it won't take long to find a Browns fan or two … or many … to suggest the refs handed the Ravens a win. And there are several media members who think the call was weak.
MMQB.com's Peter King called the penalty "cheap."
"Browns got screwed. Royally," wrote CBS Baltimore's Samuel Njoku.
During the broadcast, CBS analyst Chris Simms called it "a little too ticky tack" with the game on the line.
Assuming the call was weak, Browns fans can't get too upset. The photo below is floating around the web, showing Browns wide receiver Corey Coleman's toe was out of bounds when he scored the first touchdown of the game.
The play was reviewed, but there were no camera angles that could give a definitive look like this one. The refs decided that the call on the field "stood," but they couldn't "confirm" it.
And there are a few people playing devil's advocate on the taunting call. We don't really know why the referee threw the flag, and we won't unless the league gives an explanation today, which it sometimes does.
"The call was huge and maybe even questionable," wrote The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik. "But it is impossible to know whether or not it was a bad call without knowing what Pryor said. … If you don't know what might have been said, how do you know what Pryor was or wasn't saying? There was no hesitation with the flag or disagreement among the officials."
And then there's this point of view …
2) If You're A Ravens Fan, This Is No Time For Skepticism
There was nothing pretty about the Ravens' play in the first quarter, as they gave up three early touchdowns against a Browns team that former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick predicted wouldn't win any games this year.
The Ravens' win over the 0-2 Buffalo Bills wasn't pretty either.
As such, there is plenty of skepticism about how good Baltimore really is, even after a perfect start.
WNST's Nestor Aparicio has some advice for The Ravens Flock.
"[I]f you're a Ravens fan, this is no time for skepticism," he wrote.
"The team is 2-0. They're playing another 0-2 team this weekend. I'm not sure if they're a Super Bowl contender at this point but they don't need to be. Not until January, anyway. And right now, there's nothing to suggest that this team can't win 10 games this season and be involved in the tournament. It's as good of a start as is possible."
Aparicio knows the team has plenty to improve, but likes the idea of the Ravens finding their footing earlier in the year with some positive signs for the future.
"The Ravens are perfect so far," he wrote. "So my fellow purple friends, simply enjoy the prosperity. I remember last season when there was none to enjoy."
3) Joe Flacco Must Learn Important Lesson In Win
Just because fans are urged to enjoy the win doesn't mean the Ravens have nothing to correct.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley has a lesson he hopes quarterback Joe Flacco learned: start faster.
"The Baltimore Ravens should breathe a sigh of relief more than celebrate," he wrote.
"Their slow-out-of-the-gate performance might cut it against the rebuilding Browns and their 17 rookies. It won't, however, against the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots. And it might not even be good enough next Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars."
It took until late in the second quarter for the offense to generate points. Before that, the offensive drives ended in a punt, interception, turnover on downs and another punt.
Things finally got jump-started when Flacco began throwing downfield with confidence. We began seeing more deep passes to Dennis Pitta, Breshad Perriman, Steve Smith and Mike Wallace. Per Hensley, Flacco averaged nearly 15 yards per completion on his final 25 throws.
Turns out, it was Flacco who campaigned for more downfield passes.
"I said to [Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman], 'We're going fast, and we're moving ... but it feels like we're getting 2 yards, 3 yards, 6 yards,'" Flacco said. "Everything is taking long. So let's get into more of a groove of trying to get some chunks. [The plays] don't have to be perfect, but I think we can let our players make some plays and get some opportunities."
4) Ravens Have To Be 'Alarmed' By Inability To Run
As good as the passing offense started to look after Flacco got things turned around, there is still a missing ingredient.
For the second consecutive game, the running attack lacked a major impact until late when the Ravens were trying to milk the clock to seal the win.
"The Ravens have to be alarmed by their inability to run," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker. "We saw this at times last year and to a greater degree in 2013, but a Joe Flacco-led offense simply does not work without some kind of running game to set up play-action opportunities."
The Ravens averaged 3.1 yards per carry, which is only slightly better than the 3.0 average last week (a few Flacco kneels dropped it from 3.3) that Head Coach John Harbaugh said his team had to improve. It will take a combination of the offensive line, Justin Forsett and Terrance West to get things moving.
"Justin Forsett and Terrance West aren't the most scintillating pair of runners, but the reality is they've had nowhere to go on most of their carries," wrote Walker. "The Ravens' offensive line has not won enough battles, either early in the game or late.
"Rookies Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis are learning on the job on the left side of the line. Kenneth Dixon will soon rejoin the running back rotation. Theoretically, the ground game should improve. But so far, the Ravens have clearly missed Kelechi Osemele, lost to a record free-agent deal in the offseason."
5) Dennis Pitta Is All The Way Back
If there were any questions about the kind of impact tight end Dennis Pitta could have on the offense, they were answered by his 102-yard receiving day on the very field where he suffered his second hip injury that threatened to end his career.
"Pitta ran superb routes and gained positive yards after the catch," wrote CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown. "Pitta is moving as well as ever, and his chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco remains unchanged. Pitta is the Ravens' best receiving tight end, and will help them win games if he remains healthy."
6) Clarence Brooks Named Coach Of The Week
In his weekly "Coach of the Week" section of his column, King gave the award to former Ravens Defensive Line Coach Clarence Brooks in memoriam. Brooks passed away Saturday after battling esophageal cancer.
"His death must not go unnoticed, and not just because he was a damned good coach for 41 years of his life, starting at alma mater UMass in 1976," wrote King. "So many people around the Ravens are convinced he's one of the best position coaches (defensive line) in recent NFL history."
The Ravens tried to get some players on the phone for King to interview about Brooks, including Terrell Suggs, but they were too upset to talk. So, retired Raven, Rob Burnett, talked to King and explained why Brooks was such a special coach.
"There's one word I can use—and this is very hard because you know how volatile coaches can be—and it's consistency. Sometimes, you lose a game, and the next day in the hall everyone's walking with their heads down. Not Clarence. Every day he was the same. Fair, honest, so honest, treat you like a grown man. It's a tough, tough business, when all the players make so much more money than the position coaches.
"But he was a consistent force in a constant flux business. Everyone he touched got better as a player and a person. I'm not going to mention names, but I can tell you he helped a few guys with their problems off the field. I mean, really helped. And he wanted nothing in return. Brooks will be sorely missed."
7) Special Teams Wins The Game For Ravens
Special teams play rarely gets a shout out, but we will end our takeaways giving credit to the Ravens unit.
Justin Tucker scored nine points on field goals, but several players named Lawrence Guy's extra-point block and Tavon Young's return as the play that sparked the turnaround. The three-point swing made all the difference as it forced the Browns to go for a touchdown at the end of the game instead of a field goal.
That's why Guy and Young were named King's Special Teams Players of the Week.
"The Ravens still excel on special teams and that's why they won," wrote Walker. "We all know Harbaugh was a special teams coach before he took over the Ravens, and he cares deeply about the least glamorous phase of the game. That interest continues to pay off season after season."