The Baltimore Ravens look like a team very much on the rise. Can the improving Cleveland Browns slow down John Harbaugh’s surging club?
Anytime you can go into Pittsburgh and get a win, it’s an impressive feat regardless of how that team is playing. But when a team can pitch a second half shutout and hold Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense to 47 total yards in 30 minutes of football, that’s something to toot your horn about.
But Baltimore Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh knows as well as anyone that there’s no time for celebration in early October. His team is off to a 3-1 start this season but did stub its toes in Week 2 at Cincinnati. That’s hardly surprising given the Bengals’ own impressive start but a divisional loss can never be a good thing.
And speaking of the subject, the Cleveland Browns know that latter feeling all too well. The team is winless in its last 18 games (0-17-1) vs. their AFC North rivals dating back to a 31-10 Thursday night loss at Cincinnati in Week 9 of 2015. The team’s head coach was Mike Pettine (currently the defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers) and the Browns’ starting quarterback was Johnny Manziel.
Looking for Cleveland’s last divisional victory. In Week 5 of that same year, Pettine’s team went into Baltimore and pinned a 33-30 overtime loss on Harbaugh’s club. The team’s quarterback that afternoon was well-traveled Josh McCown, who riddled the Ravens for 457 yards and two scores through the air and another touchdown on the ground.
But that was then and the now is rookie signal-caller Baker Mayfield. Since taking the field late in the first half of the team’s Week 3 Thursday night clash with the New York Jets, the Browns have scored a combined 63 points and the club’s offense has totaled seven touchdowns. But with excitement comes the usual mistakes from a young player. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner committed four turnovers in his first NFL start, a 45-42 overtime loss to the Oakland Raiders last Sunday, and owned up to his performance.
“We turned the ball over too many times, gave them a chance,” explained Mayfield after the three-point setback (via ClevelandBrowns.com). “In this league, when you turn the ball over like we did today, like I did, you’re not going to win those games. And so, we saw the end result of that. I’m the quarterback of this team and that’s on me.”
Not all the news was bad for the young performer. He did throw for 295 yards and the Cleveland offense did roll up 487 total yards vs. Oakland. He completed 21-of-41 passes, which means he also threw 20 incompletions. But the Browns’ offense certainly has a different feel to it under the command of the club’s 30th different starting quarterback since 1999.
So can Cleveland rock these Ravens? Baltimore has won five straight games in this series, including three straight on the Browns’ home field. Harbaugh’s club boasts the second-ranked defense in the league. But it’s Hue Jackson’s team that leads the NFL with 13 takeaways, equaling their season total of a year ago. Can the Ravens block Myles Garrett, who’s totaled 4.5 sacks this season? More importantly, can the Browns make themselves a contender in the bunched-up AFC North? The team is overdue when it comes to slaying one of its divisional neighbors.