(Three points of interest in today’s game)
Receiver Josh Gordon seems set up perfectly for a huge second half of the season. He’s off to a stellar start through six games played – 32 catches, 582 yards, 18.2 average, three touchdowns -- and should only do better without having to worry about getting traded. The deadline passed Tuesday and Gordon remained.
“It can definitely alleviate some pressure from the rest of the teammates knowing I’ll be here and they can count on me, so definitely I hope so,” he said.
Gordon didn’t play in the loss to the Ravens in Week 2 as he served a two-game suspension. He changed the offense when he returned, and the Ravens must account for him, specifically rookie free safety Matt Elam, who can’t let Gordon get behind him. Baltimore held Gordon to three catches for 54 yards in two meetings last year, but Gordon’s a different player in his second season. He needs to take another step in the last eight games if the Browns are going to make a push inside the AFC North.
“I’m happy he’s here,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “I think he was a great player and he makes our offense better when he’s here.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has never lost to the Browns. That will be a storyline for every matchup that it remains true. He’s 11-0 (the most wins by a quarterback against an opponent without a loss since the 1970 merger), completing 62.5 percent for 2,248 yards, 13 touchdowns (his most against an opponent), five interceptions and a 92.7 rating. He was clutch again in Week 2, going 22-for-33 for 211 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions despite being hurt by drops and distracted by his wife giving birth about an hour before kickoff.
“He is still a great quarterback,” Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor said. “He can still win games no matter what. We’ve got to go out there and treat him like any quarterback in this league -- go out there and try to get to him and rattle him.”
The Browns defense has struggled on third down, but has been good in third-and-long. That’s also been a strength for Flacco, as his strong arm makes any throw possible. The Browns’ best chance is to pressure Flacco into sacks or mistakes – he threw five interceptions in a loss to Buffalo, skewing his season rating of 78.9. Former teammate Paul Kruger would like nothing better than to take down Flacco for the first time. Kruger, an outside linebacker, was shut out in Week 2 but has 1.5 sacks in the last two weeks, giving him 2.5 for the year and a bit of momentum heading into the second half of the season.
Cleveland’s Joe Haden is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, holding some of the game’s best wideouts well below their season averages. But as a true lockdown, No. 1 cornerback, the only break in the schedule comes next week during the bye. Haden went from Detroit’s Calvin Johnson to Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson to Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe. Baltimore’s Torrey Smith is up next. He doesn’t have the resume as the rest of the list, but he’s the fastest of the bunch and leads the league with 20.3 yards per catch.
“He’s a really good player, we just want to make sure with him we don’t let him get over the top,” Haden said.
Smith leads the Ravens with 31 catches for 629 yards, and has a touchdown. He caught seven for 85 against Haden in Week 2 but didn’t explode for a big play. That’s been a calling card of Cleveland’s secondary, which is the only one in the league not to allow a play of 40 yards.
“I’m having some good success going up against these No. 1s, trying to make sure that they’re contained or locked up basically,” said Haden, who then lamented his lack of an interception this year. “I don’t get a lot of opportunities, but when they do present themselves I need to make sure I make those plays. I think I’ve been doing really good, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Consecutive wins by the Ravens vs. the Browns, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Playoff trips by coach John Harbaugh in his five seasons with Baltimore.
Rushing touchdown by the Browns through eight games, from Willis McGahee vs. Buffalo. Cleveland’s opponents have rushed for nine TDs.
The Browns are due and the Ravens are vulnerable. The 11-game losing streak ends and Cleveland remains relevant through the bye week. Browns 20, Ravens 19.