Stingy Ravens D awaits Browns
Per usual, the Baltimore Ravens are playing some serious defense.
The Cleveland Browns have the NFL’s fifth-best rushing offense and are averaging 26.5 points per game through two games. Sunday, they get what Browns coach Mike Pettine called their "stiffest test yet" in a Ravens team that’s given up one touchdown all season and ranks in the top 10 against the run early in the season.
Both teams are 1-1, and both know nothing will come easy Sunday.
"Defensively, not much has changed (with the Ravens)," Pettine said. "That’s a prideful, competitive group that makes you earn everything. I would say that’s the strength of their team."
That lone touchdown came on a big play to A.J. Green in the fourth quarter of a Week One loss to Cincinnati. The Ravens totally dominated Pittsburgh last Thursday.
"They don’t give up big plays," Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "They make you work for it. They make you go all the way down the field. You can’t beat yourself. You’ve got to run the ball. When you throw the ball, you have to catch it, make good decisions. You’ve got to get up the field. You can’t dance because there aren’t many explosive plays vs. this defense.
"You have to keep moving the chains. If you do that, then you might get some opportunities in the red zone. You’re always looking for a big play vs. a team like this, but it’s going to be tough. I don’t want to say they’re totally a bend but don’t break because they are an aggressive team, but it’s tough to get the big play on them."
The Browns have been an efficient offense over the last six quarters, averaging 156.5 rushing yards. Quarterback Brian Hoyer has been good when it’s counted most. He led a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the second half last week and a 14-play, 85-yard drive to set up the field goal that beat the New Orleans Saints.
Earlier this week, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called Hoyer the best Browns quarterback he’s seen in a long time.
"I know their history at quarterback, let’s put it that way," Harbaugh said.
The Browns have mixed in some no-huddle offense to keep defenses off balance, and Hoyer is working on a streak of 139 consecutive passes without an interception.
"The Browns have good, very talented backs who aren’t trying to make a 20-yard play out of 3-yard play," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "They just get what they get in the seams. They did a good job of scheming up against the Steelers and then New Orleans. They got them a little off balance with the no-huddle offense.
"Hoyer doesn’t take sacks. The Browns don’t get a lot of negative plays and they’ll take a shot once and awhile down the field to keep everybody honest. They max up in protection and try to get a chunk down the field with two receivers. That’s basically their passing game."
The Browns are hoping to have Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron back from a shoulder injury — he practiced Thursday while wearing a red non-contact jersey — and hoping rookie runners Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell can continue to get upfield and find space.
"What you see on film is exactly what you expect out of the Baltimore Ravens — tough, sound defense, know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and they have some good playmakers, too," Hoyer said. "This is going to be a challenge. We’ll see exactly where we are when we go play this game."