BALTIMORE -- The Cleveland Browns get their first look at the Baltimore Ravens and play their second of three road games within the AFC North Division at M&T Bank Stadium on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.
Following their 31-30, last-second home victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football, the Ravens are 2-1 and tied with the Cincinnati Bengals atop the AFC North Division. The Browns are 0-3 after a 24-14, home loss to the Buffalo Bills last Sunday afternoon.
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Defensively, 17-year middle linebacker Ray Lewis leads the Ravens with his 29 tackles, including 23 solo stops this season. One of two active players with 2,000 or more tackles, Lewis has 31 interceptions in his career and needs just 28 interception return yards to pass Derrick Brooks for the most-ever by a linebacker.
“You look at players and you want players on your team that have passion, are productive and are durable,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “We all know how passionate (Lewis) is. I haven’t coached at the Ravens. I’m assuming and it’s been talked about how he’s a big-time leader on their team. I see that and he’s been productive. If you play for 17 years, obviously, you’ve displayed durability. Those are all the things you’re looking for in a player and I’ve got a great deal of respect for what he’s accomplished.”
Lewis has played 23 games against the Browns. During that time, he has registered 267 total tackles, made 165 solo stops, intercepted four passes -- one of which he returned for a touchdown -- and collected seven sacks for 64 lost yards.
With Lewis setting the pace on defense, the Ravens have limited opponents to just 3.3 yards per carry over 100 rushing attempts.
“When you’re talking about Ray Lewis, he’s one of the ultimates that ever played the game,” said Richardson, “Especially as a linebacker, but as an NFL player, you can put him in that bunch with L.T. (Lawrence Taylor) and guys like that. You can’t take anything from his game.”
Although he will have to find a way to get past Lewis and into the second level of Ravens defenders, Richardson feels he is ready to test himself against Baltimore. He has rushed for 175 yards and one touchdown on 50 carries in his first three career games.
“Anytime I get the ball in my hands, I feel I can make do,” Richardson said. “I can make somebody miss, gain yards, get into the end zone, score touchdowns or something. I don’t get frustrated in the game. Sometimes, I might get upset with myself and I feel like I could’ve made somebody miss.”
Offensively, quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice set the tempo for the Ravens.
Flacco has completed 71 of 110 attempts for 913 yards and six touchdowns with just two interceptions. He has been sacked five times for 39 lost yards, but still carries a 101.1 quarterback rating into Thursday’s game.
Ten different Ravens have receptions through the first three games of the year.
“They’re a very, very talented offensive team,” Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. “They’ve got speed outside; they’ve got experience outside and inside and then, they’ve got their tight ends, who are very athletic and we haven’t even talked about the running back. They can really stretch you out and give you problems, matchup problems, and they do a good job doing it.”
Rice is a dual threat out of Baltimore’s backfield. He leads the team with 268 yards and three touchdowns on a Ravens-best 46 carries. He has also caught 14 passes for 127 yards out of the backfield.
Rice averages 5.8 yards per carry and 9.1 yards per reception.
“Really clearly, (he’s) one of the very best players in the league on the offensive side of the ball,” Jauron said. “He’s an outstanding receiver. He’s got great balance, got really good speed. He hits a hole fast; he finds the holes and they’re good up front, so it’s a combination that really stresses a defense. (He’s) just a tremendous player.”