Key Decision #1: (BAL leads 3-0/ 4th & goal CLE 1/ 11:16 Q1)
- Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh is typically a by-the-book game manager; it’s a skill that’s made him quite successful for a long time. However, we’ve noticed in 2017 that he’s deviated a bit and that’s cost him, and it almost cost him in the game.
- Ahead 3-0, and on the road, he simply didn’t want to take the FG and go up 6-0. Now we understand that he has a good defense and the Browns are playing with a rookie QB, and if Baltimore failed to score, the Browns probably would have had the ball on their own 1-yard line. But the Ravens are fighting hard for a playoff spot, so their margin of error is incredibly slight.
- Baltimore went for the TD, and they did not get it. In fact, RB Alex Collins was stuffed so badly that he lost three yards, the Browns defense was fired up, and so were the few fans in attendance.
- So what happened then? The Browns drove 96 yards for a go-ahead TD and now led 7-3 at home.
Key Decision #2: (CLE trails 17-10/ 1st & 10 on own 4/ 7:13 Q3)
- Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson has done a good job – up to this point – of managing the game and keeping it to one score.
- This was the Browns’ 9th possession; four have started inside their own 5-yard line, with this being the 2nd consecutive possession inside their own 5. Ravens punter Sam Koch was having a career day, along with the Ravens’ punt cover team.
- On the Browns’ first possession that started inside their 5, they ran the ball on first down. The same thing happened on their second series that started inside their 5. On their third series that started inside the 5, they threw incomplete on first down – Jackson may have felt secure getting away with their protection. So he tried it again this time, with rookie QB DeShone Kizer in the gun. Kizer hung on a bit too long, was strip sacked, and the Ravens recovered a fumble in the endzone for a TD and 24-10 lead – their first two-score lead of the day.
- While it’s obviously frustrating to have such bad field position, we felt that given the circumstances, and how reasonably well the Browns’ defense had been playing, and the one score nature of the game, that perhaps simply going under center and staying very conservative with the running game would have been more prudent. After all, the Browns ripped off a 59-yard Isaiah Crowell run on first down from the same situation earlier in the game. Kizer isn’t a seasoned veteran QB, so at the goal line, the clock in his head can’t be trusted right now.
- The Ravens clearly play better on offense when they open in I-formation and establish their running game. Their first drive in this game showed that, and we hope they stick with this formula the rest of the season. They simply don’t have the personnel anywhere on their offensive unit at the moment to spread it out effectively.
- Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson, in our view, is a good coach when he has the personnel to run what he wants to run. This season, there were a few games where he could have notched a victory if he could have had his offensive personnel stay within their abilities. But he is placing an enormous amount of faith in Kizer – too much, too early in our view, and Kizer’s play has been too unsteady to justify that faith. Down 24-10 at 3:25 in Q3, the Browns had a 4th & 1 at the Baltimore 39. They chose to go for it, but with a Kizer sneak. It was their last best opportunity to close back to within one score, but Jackson again put it on Kizer. The try failed, and that effectively ended the game.