By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun
1:09 AM EDT, September 28, 2012
The Ravens' offensive line experienced a rough night, a bout of regression that often left quarterback Joe Flacco lying on the ground.
After an encouraging game against the New England Patriots where Flacco wasn't sacked and rarely hit, he sustained several big hits as the offensive line regularly broke down Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns.
Flacco was sacked a season-high four times and hit six times by the fourth quarter.
During the first half, Flacco was sacked once by quick defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin when left guard Ramon Harewood appeared confused and failed to pick up an inside stunt.
Rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele was beaten by defensive end Jabaal Sheard for another sack as he was unable to stop Sheard's bull rush.
"They basically played to their strengths. It was all correctable. It wasn't anything scheme-wise. I know personally I didn't play as well as I wanted to. I had my head in there one time where I gave up a sack. It's nothing that scheme-wise or assignment-wise can't be fixed. It's just technique."
Left offensive tackle Michael Oher entered the game with no penalties, reversing his usual trend of being prone to false starts.
He was flagged for one false start Thursday and two holding penalties.
"It's part of the game," said Oher, who got angry in the fourth quarter at an official and had to be restrained by fullback Vonta Leach after a holding penalty nullified running back Ray Rice's 21-yard run. "It's how it goes. Evidently, it was a good call. The refs know what they're doing, they know what's going on."
In addition, veteran center Matt Birk was vulnerable to penetration up the middle.
In the second half, the Ravens gave blitzing safety Usama Young a clear path to the quarterback.
Before Thursday, Flacco had only been sacked five times through three games.
"It's a hard game, it's hard to win," Birk said. "It's my fourth year here and it's always a battle when we play those guys. I think they're a good football team. I certainly think they're a good defense. I'm just happy that we got the win. We played good enough to win. There's always things to work on.
"As a lineman, part of your makeup is you don't remember your good plays. You only remember your bad plays. That's what makes you a good player, a good offensive lineman and a good offensive line. At the end of the day, we put up enough points to win. Their whole defense is good. You turn on the tape and they play hard, they play tough, they're very well-coached. We knew were in for a fight."
Cribbs leaves the game
Cleveland Browns wide receiver and return specialist Josh Cribbs left the game in the first quarter with a head injury after absorbing a devastating hit from Ravens inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
After long snapper Morgan Cox made contact with Cribbs during a punt return, Ellerbe's right shoulder crashed into Cribbs' helmet and sent it flying. Losing his helmet and possession of the football, Cribbs landed awkwardly on the back of his head.
While lying motionless on the turf, Cribbs got an inadvertent cleat to the face from running back Anthony Allen as he pursued the fumble that was recovered by Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain.
Cribbs was down for roughly four minutes and was attended to by trainers, who tested him for signs of a concussion.
Cribbs got up without assistance and headed to the locker room for further examination, but he did not return.
Ellerbe was visibly upset and concerned about Cribbs.
"I didn't know, I just thought I got a good shot on him," Ellerbe said. "You're not trying to hurt anybody or knock anybody out like that. I like him as a player.
"I just hope he's all right. I said a prayer for him. He came to. It's part of the game. I can't go out there and easy up, especially against a guy like that. You don't try to intentionally try to hurt anybody. I turned around and I thought he just fumbled the ball."
The injury took away one of the Browns' most dynamic threats on special teams.
Cribbs returned a punt a career-long 84 yards for a touchdown against the Ravens last December and had a 92-yard kickoff return against them in November 2008.
Cribbs set a career high with 306 combined return yards at Baltimore on Nov. 18, 2007.
C. Williams starts
The Ravens are remaining patient with struggling cornerback Cary Williams. Picked apart by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throughout the Ravens' 31-30 win Sunday night, Williams seemed to settle down against the Browns.
However, Cleveland was playing without one of its top wide receivers, Mohamed Massaquoi, who has a hamstring injury.
Flacco's streak ends
When quarterback Joe Flacco threw his third interception of the season by forcing a pass into heavy coverage in the end zone, it broke a personal streak in the red zone.
The interception was Flacco's first in 125 throws inside opponents' 20-yard line.
The last time Flacco was intercepted in the red zone was a Dec. 7, 2009, loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
Sack for Kruger
Although he didn't start at outside linebacker ahead of rookie Courtney Upshaw for the second consecutive game, veteran Paul Kruger did contribute.
Kruger used a crisp swim move to get past rookie right offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz for his first sack of the season.
Jamal Lewis recognized
The Ravens inducted former Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis into the Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony.
"I'm so humbled to be here," Lewis said. "I'd like to thank the entire Ravens organization for this special honor."
Lewis was introduced by Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.
"On behalf of Steve Bisciotti and the Ravens organization, I want to welcome Jamal," Newsome said. "Anytime he touched the ball, we thought he was going to score."
A former NFL Offensive Player of the Year and first-round draft pick who rushed for 2,066 yards during the 2003 season, Lewis is the Ravens' all-time leading rusher with 7,801 yards and 47 touchdowns.
Lewis joined the Baltimore Colts' Hall of Famers, running back Earnest Byner, late owner Art Modell, defensive end Michael McCrary, linebacker Peter Boulware, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and kicker Matt Stover.
McCrary and Boulware were among the former Ravens who attended the ceremony.
Ogden's step toward Hall
On the same day Lewis was inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor, Ogden, his former teammate, learned that he was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's class of 2013. Ogden is among 13 first-year-eligible modern-era candidates to be included in a class of 127 nominees.
From that list, the Pro Hall of Fame Selection Committee will choose 25 candidates to advance as semifinalist nominees in late November. That list will be whittled to 15 by a mail ballot in early January. The final voting for the class of 2013 will then be conducted by the Hall's selection committee at the group's annual meeting Feb. 2, the day before the Super Bowl.
The first draft pick in Ravens history, Ogden played 12 seasons for the Ravens from 1996 to 2007, and was considered one of the best tackles of his era. He was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection who was inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor in 2008.
Other nominees with Ravens ties include the late quarterback Steve McNair, former backup quarterback Randall Cunningham, running back Priest Holmes, tight end Ben Coates, offensive lineman Erik Williams, defensive tackle Sam Adams and Modell.
Haden's absence exploited
The Ravens capitalized on the hole in the Browns' secondary created by top cornerback Joe Haden's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.
With Haden out, Flacco went after cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson and Sheldon Brown.
The Browns played a lot of soft Cover 2 schemes, which Flacco picked apart during a drive capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Torrey Smith. Flacco darted a spiral between the defensive backs for the touchdown. He completed all four throws on the drive for 87 yards.
Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive week. Kindle last played against the Philadelphia Eagles, recording one solo tackle. However, the 2010 second-round draft pick has been deactivated for three of the Ravens' first four games.
Wide receiver LaQuan Williams, offensive tackle Jah Reid (strained right calf), cornerback Asa Jackson, tight end Billy Bajema and defensive linemen DeAngelo Tyson and Bryan Hall were also inactive.