Here are my final thoughts from the Browns’ 24-18 victory over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium:
>>For the longest the time, the Browns have been, as coach Rob Chudzinski described it last week, the “kid brother” of the AFC North. Not anymore. This win put the Browns on an equal footing with the team they hadn’t beaten in 11 previous games and more than five seasons. This win, plus the victory against Cincinnati in Week 4 and the Steelers’ continued struggles, solidified the Browns as a serious challenger for the division title. And it doesn’t matter that the Ravens have taken a dramatic fall since winning the Super Bowl in February. They’re still the Ravens. They still beat the Browns in Week 2 at Baltimore. They still have Joe Flacco has their quarterback and John Harbaugh as their coach, and standout defensive players such as Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil and Haloti Ngata. But the Browns outplayed them and out-coached them. That’s how the proverbial “kid brother” shows a “big brother” that he not only has stopped taking his grief but is more than capable of giving it back.
>>What an incredibly good feeling it is to be able to savor a victory like this for two weeks before the next time the Browns play. Players and coaches can genuinely enjoy their time off during next weekend’s bye. They can rest and recover secure in the knowledge that they’ll be in the postseason hunt when they return to prepare to face the Bengals again in Week 11. And with the extra time, the coaching staff not only can more thoroughly prepare for the Cincinnati game, it also has the ability to take stock of the team’s strengths and weaknesses and make the necessary adjustments for the balance of the season, when every game carries the weight of a playoff contest.
>>The Browns’ defense didn’t play a perfect game, but it played well enough to frustrate Flacco and the Ravens’ offense for most of the game. The Browns succeeded in consistently taking away most of Flacco’s deep targets, forcing him to check down and contributing to his being sacked five times for minus-27 yards. That’s 11 sacks in the last two games for the Browns. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton made an impressive game calling a variety of blitzes that included cornerback
>>The Browns’ two best offensive playmakers, wide receiver
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