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Game Preview: Browns-Ravens

Posted Nov 2, 2013

The Cleveland Browns end the first half of the 2013 regular season with Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Cleveland Browns finish out the first half of the 2013 regular season with Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium, and there will be a lot at stake as the two teams meet for the second time this season.

The Ravens come to Cleveland at 3-4 after a pre bye-week loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers and are in need of a victory to keep hopes of defending their Super Bowl XLVII championship alive. The Browns, who enter the game at 3-5 and on a three-game losing streak, are looking to stay in the hunt for the AFC North Division championship, and also break an 11-game slide to the Ravens.

“We’re well overdue,” said veteran inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. “This is our game right before the bye week, so a lot of guys have put in extra effort this week. I like what I’ve been seeing this week, practice, the tempo at practice, guys being focused on the small detail things.

“I’m more than confident that we can come out with a win. We very desperately need a win. To win three straight and then, lose three straight and knowing that we’ve been so close, I like our odds.”

Although he has only played the Ravens once, rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo knows what it would mean to break the losing streak to Baltimore heading into the bye week with divisional games at Cincinnati (Nov. 17) and home against Pittsburgh (Nov. 24) to follow the brief respite.

“You never want to have a streak that high, unless it’s winning against a certain team,” Mingo said. “We’ve just got to play the game that we know we can play, and at the end of the day, we’ll go back and be happy.”

When the Browns and Ravens met earlier this season, it was the upstart, not the reigning Super Bowl champions, who played well in the first half.

The Browns built a 6-0 halftime lead, thanks in part to two missed field goals by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker. However, two second-half touchdown drives gave Baltimore just enough of a lead, as it improved to 1-1 on the season with a 14-6 win over the Browns at M&T Bank Stadium.

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco threw a five-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marlon Brown and extended the Ravens’ lead to 14-6 with 8:57 to play in regulation. Flacco engineered the eight-play, 42-yard drive, and converted two third-downs, first a third-and-10 from the Browns’ 42-yard line, and then, a third-and-eight from Cleveland’s 24.

Prior to Flacco’s touchdown pass to Brown, the Ravens took the lead when running back Bernard Pierce rushed for a five-yard touchdown with 5:13 to play in the third quarter.

“We felt like we let them off the hook in the first meeting,” Jackson said. “It was a close game. It was a dog fight, one of those types of games. I don’t think I’ve beaten them since…it’s been a long time (2007), and I think we’ve got the guys to do it. We’re finally settling down. We made some corrections last week, so I’m more than confident this weekend.”

Breaking the 11-game losing streak will require the Browns to stop Flacco from getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers, particularly, running back Ray Rice and wide receiver Torrey Smith.

Rice, who has battled injury problems throughout the season, has rushed for 958 yards and four touchdowns on 205 attempts in 11 career games against the Browns, and has accounted for another 200 yards and one score on 33 receptions. Rice rushed for a career-best 204 yards in Baltimore’s 24-10 win over the Browns on Dec. 4, 2011.

“He’s the same dangerous threat that he always is coming out of the backfield and running the ball,” Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. “I believe that Coach (John) Harbaugh has stated that they need to run the ball better. I think most teams do that. If you do that, you win the games usually because if you get your runner 20-plus carries a game, you’re winning and controlling the clock. I think that’s their point of emphasis.”

In five games against the Browns, Smith has turned 20 catches into 298 yards, 13 first downs and two touchdowns. Earlier this year, Smith matched a career high when he caught seven passes in the Ravens’ Week Two win in Baltimore.

“Statistically he’s leading the league; he’s averaging 20.3 (yards) a catch,” Horton said. “He’s been dynamic. Our players pride themselves on, statistically, not having a pass over 40 yards. We’re the only team that hasn’t given up, theoretically, a big play in that category.

“It’s a challenge up front to challenge the quarterback, to get him off the spot, to disrupt his timing. It’s technique on top. Obviously, it comes down to making a play. The ball is going to be thrown and your guys have to make a play at the point. (Smith’s) a tremendous athlete and with Jacoby (Jones) being back, I think he gives them speed on the outside. We’ve been watching film obviously and Flacco, I think, is getting back into the deep throw. They’re starting to open that up.”