With one sack over the past three games, the Ravens' quest for more sacks continues, although opposing quarterbacks are not cooperating.
Gardner Minshew will be the next mobile quarterback that the Ravens face Sunday when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars. This comes after Baltimore faced Baker Mayfield on Monday, who was not sacked during the Ravens' thrilling 47-42 victory.
Mayfield's ability to escape the pocket made it difficult for the Ravens to get him on the ground, but they still had five hits on Cleveland's quarterback. Pernell McPhee set the tone by hitting Mayfield on the game's first play, and Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale sees outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue growing more comfortable after his midseason trade to Baltimore.
"I think that you continue to see him just get closer and closer to being a Raven and executing the packages," Martindale said. "Just like with all the rushers we have up front … We talked about a little bit last week the sacks going down. I think Baker held on to the ball long enough, we just need to finish better at the quarterback. But Yannick has done a nice job, especially in passing situations, but he also has gotten a lot better against the run, as well."
Ngakoue has just once sack in seven games with the Ravens, after getting five sacks in six games with the Minnesota Vikings before the trade. However, Monday night may have been Ngakoue's best game in Baltimore. He was constantly in the backfield and nearly had a strip sack of Mayfield in the fourth quarter. Ngakoue senses more sacks coming as well.
"Yes, absolutely," Ngakoue said. "Sometimes, that's just how the game is, but they come in bunches when the roll in. So, you just have to continue to have a mindset of, 'I can't give up. I won't stop. I'll keep rushing regardless.'
"Continue to do what I'm doing every day – practicing hard, studying and continuing to rush violently and winning violently. This game is about inches. So, I just have to continue to keep working my craft."
Monday Night Was Not a Defensive Classic
Monday night's game was thrilling to watch, but Baltimore's defense wasn't thrilled about giving up 42 points to the Browns. The Ravens surrendered 493 yards to the Browns and 388 to the Dallas Cowboys the week before.
"Everybody says, 'Great game, great game,''' Martindale said. "Well, it's not really a great game if you're a defensive coordinator. Thankfully enough we made enough plays to win."
The Ravens were particularly miffed to give up two touchdown runs in the red zone to Nick Chubb (7 yards, 14 yards) and another to Kareem Hunt (5 yards). The front seven expects to do a better job protecting the end zone, and defensive end Calais Campbell said they'll be an emphasis on getting back to basics.
"First things first, we definitely know we could play better on defense," Campbell said. "We didn't play our best ball, but that's OK. We got the 'W,' and that's the No. 1 thing in this business. Never forget that – the only thing that really matters is the win, no matter how you get it. There are going to be some games where you might have to win 6-3, and there are some games where you win 47-42. So, it goes the way it goes.
"But our defense, we're very confident and we understand who we are. We just have to get back to playing our ball. It's the grind. It's one day at a time, communicating and getting back to the fundamentals. I'm very confident that we're going to be just fine."
Roman Switched Gears When Lamar Reentered Cleveland Game
When Lamar Jackson came from the locker room and reentered the game with two minutes to play in Cleveland, it forced Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman to adjust quickly.
Backup quarterback Trace McSorley had just left the game with a knee injury. Wide receiver Willie Snead IV was warming up to enter the game as the emergency quarterback. When Jackson left the game, Roman wasn't sure if Jackson would return.
"No, I had no idea," Roman said. "I knew cramping was an issue. We were moving forward with Trace at that point. That was pretty simple. It got complicated right before the fourth down.
"We were ready to go ahead with Willie, and then all of a sudden I got word that he (Lamar) was back out there and we were ready to roll. Kind of had to shift gears. Definitely wouldn't have called the same play with Willie in there, although if you ask Willie, he's said 'Why not?'''
Once Jackson was in the huddle, Roman dialed up a play suited to take advantage of Jackson's versatility. The result was a dramatic 44-yard yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Marquise Brown that will be remembered. Roman gave Jackson credit for calmly letting the play develop to his advantage.
"That particular play has a lot of options to it," Roman said. "The reason he was able to vacate the pocket was because of the choice the defense made with their call. Once he got out of the pocket I thought he'd run for it. He had vision down the field. He was really aware of all his options on that play. He was able to see Marquise and hit him.
"I've been doing this for a little while now. That was definitely ... just when you think you've seen it all."
Martindale Likes Minshew's Style
Though he will be trying to stop Minshew on Sunday, Martindale says he can understand while the young quarterback has gained a "Minshew Mania" following in Jacksonville despite the team's struggles.
"This guy – he's a gunslinger," Martindale said. "They call him the jorts [jean shorts] guy, long hair – I kind of like him. A lot of swag."
Martindale, who sports a mullet, was asked to talk about the pros and cons of the hairstyle. He did so – briefly.
"Well, first of all, mullets are back," Martindale said. "You know that. We've brought it back. I'm not going to get into that."