After opening the season with two extremely disappointing losses, the Browns look to rebound in week 3 as they travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens. No doubt a win seems like a tall order for a Browns team that has not been able to get out of its own way the first two weeks of the 2010 season. The Ravens, who many believe to have Super Bowl potential, are coming off a tough loss to their division rivals the Bengals. The Browns can expect a bit of extra hunger and nastiness from Ray Lewis and company, if that is even possible for the always surly Ravens.
The frustration level for Coach Eric Mangini seems to be rising quickly. Starting the year against the Bucs and the Chiefs, two teams who are not projected to be very strong, the Browns feel like they have let a golden opportunity for a fast start slip through their fingers. Now the Browns schedule gets tough in a hurry. With five out of their next seven games coming against teams who made the playoffs last season, the Browns have to find a way to win this week to avoid digging themselves a hole they will not be able to escape.
Throughout the week Mangini has stressed discipline and ball security to his team. Key penalties have plagued the Browns thus far which is an oddity for a Mangini coached team. Last year the Browns finished among the least penalized teams in the league. Coach Mangini has said outright that if his starting players can not focus and play disciplined football, then they will be watching from the sideline as their backups give it a try.
It will take more than simply discipline to beat a team like the Ravens. On the defensive side of the ball the Browns top objective will be to contain Ray Rice, the outstanding young running back out of Rutgers. With their passing game in a state of flux, the Ravens will look to Rice to gash the Browns with some big runs early, as well as looking to find him with short passes to get him open space to work with. That being said, the Browns certainly do not want this to be the week that the Ravens passing game finally gets on track. Joe Flacco has shown glimpses of becoming a solid NFL quarterback and with his new crop of talented receivers, specifically former Cardinals pro-bowler Anquan Boldin, it seems like only a matter of time before they become a consistently dangerous unit.
Offensively, the Browns look to career backup Seneca Wallace to lead the charge against the vaunted Ravens defense. Wallace looked good at times last week connecting with Joshua Cribbs for a 65-yard touchdown pass, however, he will need to limit his mistakes and play more consistently to win this week. To neutralize the Ravens aggresive pass rush, the Browns can use Wallace’s speed and athleticism to move the pocket. This will allow them the opportunity to take a few chances down field against the Ravens secondary that will be without All Pro safety Ed Reed. In addition, the Browns have talked about wanting to get the explosive Cribbs more involved in the offense specifically in the wild cat formation. One way or another, the Browns may need to find creative ways to put up points because it is going to be tough for them to get the running game going between the tackles.
Look for the game Sunday to be a great indicator of how the rest of the season will go for Cleveland. Are we going to see a team that is consistently improving and correcting their previous mistakes? Is this a team that can bounce back from a few tough losses and play competitive football against a tough division opponent? Or will it be a team that can simply can not put it together for a coach that is in danger of losing his job at years end or even sooner? Tune in on Sunday to find out!
About the Author
Written by Fran Berkman
Francis (Fran) Berkman is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BS in Human Development. He is currently working towards a master's degree in journalism at Hofstra University. He lives in Massapequa, NY.