Remember three weeks ago, when the Ravens dominated the Browns’ front seven and racked up a franchise-record 290 rushing yards in a 24-10 win?
Yeah, the Browns remember that, too.
That’s why, while the Ravens will likely still plan to attack a Cleveland rush defense which is the second-worst in the NFL, they know that the Browns will make every effort to keep Ray Rice and Ricky Williams from putting up a ridiculous number on them yet again.
“Absolutely. Anybody would after having a game like that,” Rice said. “We respect them, they respect us. It’s all going to be about execution, but we know that they are going to put a nice edge on their defense, have a safety down, whatever they got to do to get the job done. Nobody is going to line up and let you just run over them. It’s going to be a fight.”
Rice and Williams had whatever they wanted and then some in that matchup in Cleveland earlier this month, averaging 6.2 yards per carry between the two of them. Thanks to a dominant effort by the offensive line, the Ravens wore down the Browns’ front in poor conditions that were conducive to a run-dominated offensive gameplan.
“I give those guys credit; they whooped us up front,” Browns linebacker and Maryland product D’Qwell Jackson said this week. “They just out-manned us. But, when we went back to the film, it’s never as bad as you think it is. They weren’t running a lot of complicated schemes; it was basic lead opens and lead stretches and things of that nature. It was just guys jumping out of gaps.
“With the success they were having running the ball, guys would get a little antsy and want to make a play here and there, and ... guys tend to jump out of gaps and try to make a play. And when you do that with a sound team like them, they make you pay for it.”
Since their loss to the Ravens three weeks ago, however, the Browns have tightened things up in their front seven. Head coach Pat Shurmur said the coaches made some schematic adjustments, and those changes have paid off.
The Browns allowed Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall to pick up just 76 yards back on Dec. 8, and then limited Cardinals running back Beanie Wells to 51 yards last weekend.
“They’ve been playing their opponents tough against the run ever since they played us,” fullback Vonta Leach said. “They made a lot of adjustments. We’ve got to be ready. We can’t just go in there with the same gameplan.”
Rice, Leach and others have said that they don’t expect tomorrow’s offensive strategy to focus quite as heavily on the run as it did in the previous matchup with the Browns. That afternoon, the Ravens had 55 rushes to just 24 passing attempts, which, players say, was a largely due to the rainy weather and sub-par field conditions.
Under what’s expected to be sunny skies, with a quality field turf below their feet and knowing the Browns will be keying to stop the run, it’s hard to expect 55 more carries from the Ravens tomorrow afternoon.
But with that said, you have to believe offensive coordinator Cam Cameron won’t forget about the 290 rushing yards piled up that afternoon in Cleveland, either.