Without a doubt, Baltimore Ravens fans had to be thinking “Not again!” after the first half of the home opener. The Ravens took on the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon, hoping to increase the team’s win number against their division rival to 11 consecutive wins. But as the team made their way to the locker room at halftime, it looked as though the Ravens were headed down the same path as the Week 1 game in Denver and would have to plug the holes in their porous game if they wanted to avoid going 0-2.
The score at halftime was 6-0 Browns, proving the Ravens had a lot of work to do in the second half if they wanted to notch a victory.
Here’s how the Ravens struggled in Week 2 and how the team came back to win 14-6 over their divisional opponent.
Justin Tucker’s missed field goals
The Ravens have grown to rely on kicker Justin Tucker for the past year. The second-year kicker only missed three field goals last season. He missed 2 alone against the Browns on Sunday.
But should this be a concern for the Ravens?
Tucker called his misses “uncharacteristic” and knows exactly what he needs to do to improve before next week’s game against the Houston Texans.
Tucker first miss was a mis-hit to the right on a 50-yard field goal attempt. The second was likely a matter of wind miscalculation on a 44-yard field goal attempt.
Wide receivers stepped up
Marlon Brown stood out among the receivers yet again after scoring another touchdown on Sunday. Brown has stepped up to replace the injured Jacoby Jones at wide receiver. The rookie went undrafted in 2013, but has proved to the Ravens organization that he is more than deserving of his roster spot.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith has also proved to be one of Flacco’s most reliable wideouts. This may not come as a surprise to many, since Smith took on a leadership role on offense after the departure of Anquan Boldin. Quarterback Joe Flacco seems to be most comfortable when throwing to Smith.
Flacco not depending on tight ends as much
Flacco has had a dependable tight end every season since his debut in Baltimore, with Todd Heap for the first few years and Pitta stepping up in the past two seasons. But with Pitta’s injury, Flacco has had to turn his focus elsewhere.
In the first two games of the season, tight ends Ed Dickson, Dallas Clark, and Billy Bajema have not been the most reliable of receivers. While Flacco targeted the tight ends a great deal in the season opener against Denver, they did not see the ball much in Sunday’s game. The three tight ends were only looked towards three times against the Browns.
Flacco could start relying more on wide receiver Brandon Stokley this season, especially on third down. Stokley was targeted five times on third down and successfully completed three for first downs. Flacco used to rely on Pitta for third down conversions, but instead of replacing his go-to receiver with another tight end, he will likely start to look toward Stokley.
Ray Rice’s injury
Running back Ray Rice saw more action on Sunday than the previous week, but was sidelined during the fourth quarter due to a hip injury.
Team doctors have diagnosed the injury as a hip flexor strain, but do not expect the sixth-year veteran to be out too long. Rice is day-to-day, but could be back on the field for Week 3.
If Rice were to be sidelined for Sunday’s game, the Ravens have a reliable backup with Bernard Pierce. One main difference between Rice and Pierce, however, is Rice’s ability to be a dependable receiver. Rice is a solid outlet pass for Flacco when there is no other options downfield. But with Rice and Pierce having spent all last season practicing and playing with each other, it may not be too surprising to see Pierce as a valuable outlet pass.
Excellent performance from the front seven
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil stood out once again as a “dynamic duo” for the Ravens. Both linebackers notched a sack in Sunday’s game and forced multiple hurried passes from Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden.
The defensive line had a combined five sacks on Weeden throughout the course of the game, proving that the team’s pass rush is strong and could be a nuisance for opposing teams in the future.