Player of the game:Brian Hoyer. It's odd to award a player from the losing team, but nobody played better on Sunday. Any talk of the Browns' quarterback being a "game manager" ended against the Ravens. Hoyer was 19/25 for 290 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. More importantly, Hoyer had total control of the rhythm of the game up until the final five minutes. If the Browns needed a third-down conversion, Hoyer delivered. If the signal-caller saw something in the defense, he would audible the call to a running play. Hoyer made one bad pass late in the game to Andrew Hawkins on third-down, throwing behind the receiver. But Hoyer played more than well enough to win the game.
Turning point: It was the start of the what looked like the Browns burying the Ravens, but only to see opportunities wasted. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, on third-down and long, Joe Flacco was absolutely smothered in the backfield by Paul Kruger. The hit altered Flacco's throwing motion and the errant pass was picked off by Tashaun Gipson. Unfortunately for the Browns, the offense couldn't do much with the football. After three plays Billy Cundiff's 50-yard field goal clanked off the left goal post. The Browns had a chance to add to their lead, but blew the chance.
Play of the Game:Steve Smith beat Joe Haden for 32 yards on a go-route with 1:28 left in the fourth quarter. It put the Ravens in chip-shot field goal range and sealed the game.
Play of the Game II:The theme here is a high and then a low. Early in the fourth quarter, on fourth-and one from the Browns' 20-yard line, Baltimore running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was smothered in the backfield by Jabaal Sheard. A field goal would've left the Ravens down 21-20 with 10:51 still left on the clock. Like the Gipson interception, the Browns weren't able to flip the turnover of downs into points. A 70-yard deep pass to Taylor Gabriel was wiped out for none after the Ravens blocked Cundiff's field goal try.
Play of the Game part III: On the Browns' opening drive, Brian Hoyer tossed a gorgeous deep ball to the left corner of the field. Travis Benjamin beat the one-on-one coverage, and came down with the football. The 43-yard completion put the Browns inside the 5-yard line, setting up a Terrance West rushing touchdown. More importantly, the big play told Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to stick with throwing the ball.
X-Factor: Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro. His first four carries went for 55 yards and he totaled 81 yards in the first half alone. The rookie from Coastal Carolina gashed the Browns for a 31-yard gain early in the second quarter, and the Ravens kept feeding the bruiser the rock. Without Taliaferro in the first half, the Ravens likely don't score a touchdown.
X-Factor part II: Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. He's been without question the Browns' best target on offense this season. Against the Ravens his seven catches for 87 yards might've been his best game yet. Hawkins showed off his yards-after-the-catch abilities, including an incredible spin move on a key third-down and 11 in the third quarter.
X-Factor part III: Fullback Kyle Juszczyk. One key plays when the Browns had everyone else covered, they forgot about the sneaky target out of the backfield. Juszczyk caught a touchdown pass in the first half and hauled in another 33-yard catch that setup Baltimore's second touchdown late in the third quarter.
Most important statistic: Turnovers – the Browns still haven't committed one this season.
Most important statistic part II:Penalties – the Browns were flagged for 12 of them for 94 yards, often times extending a Ravens drive. * *
*Unusual play of the game: *Midway through the second quarter the Browns attempted to catch the Ravens off guard. On a first-down from the play from the 39-yard line, Johnny Manziel subbed in for Hoyer and handed the ball off to Isaiah Crowell for a one-yard gain. It appeared as if Manziel ran off the field, but he stopped a step short. He stayed on the field and ran a route as soon as the ball was snapped. Hoyer fired a pass to Manziel who ran for a gain of 39 yards. But the referees whistled the play back, calling an illegal shift on running back Terrance West. The Browns were sluggish the rest of the first half after losing momentum.
Issue going forward: The run defense. The Steelers, Saints and now the Ravens have all gashed the Browns defense on the ground. The Ravens posted 160 yards on 33 carries, good for 4.8 yards a clip.
Prayers up for:Dennis Pitta. The Ravens tight end suffered a serious hip injury in the second quarter and was carted off the field. It's even more concerning because Pitta broke the same hip last season in training camp. Pitta currently remains at University Hospital. *