Browns-Ravens: Game Scout

The raw data you need before Sunday's battle between the Browns and Ratbirds.

Baltimore Ravens (10-4) at Cleveland Browns (5-9)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 12/26/10

SURFACE: Natural grass

TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts

GAME THREAD: Click here

PREDICTION: Ravens 24-13

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns' flagging run defense, pushed around by the lowly Bengals last week, can expect to see plenty of Ravens RBs Ray Rice and Willis McGahee (combined 38 carries for 206 yards last week). The Browns didn't have an answer for WR Anquan Boldin (eight catches, 142 yards, three touchdowns) when they met Sept. 26, but the green secondary has made strides. The Ravens, as every Cleveland opponent has, can bring an extra defender toward the line. The game plan is to stop RB Peyton Hillis and force rookie Colt McCoy to make plays with average receivers. Hillis rushed for 144 yards at Baltimore.

FAST FACTS: Ravens QB Joe Flacco is 5-0 with a 103.6 passer rating against Cleveland. ... McCoy has a 93.7 passer rating at home.

GAME PLAN: The Browns expected a heavy dose of Ray Rice after giving up 192 yards on the ground to the Bills and 188 yards rushing to the Bengals. Rice rushed for 80 yards on 15 carries in the first meeting.

Coach Eric Mangini wants better third down production from his own offense. He believes if the offense can sustain drives the defense won't wear down as much. Last week the Bengals controlled the ball more than 38 minutes.

Rice has rushed for 1,051 yards on 262 carries. He has scored four touchdowns on the ground. He also leads the Ravens with 62 catches.


Browns CB Joe Haden vs. Ravens WR Anquan Boldin: Boldin caught three touchdown passes on Eric Wright in the third week of the season. Haden would have started Sunday even if Wright hadn't been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Browns LT Joe Thomas vs. Ravens LB Terrell Suggs: Suggs moves from the left side to the right, but plays mostly on the right, which means he will go against Thomas most of the game. Suggs leads the Ravens with 11 sacks. Thomas has played in the Pro Bowl three straight years. This is his last chance to convince voters he deserves another trip.

INJURY IMPACT: The Browns are not overly concerned about the illness that kept McCoy out of practice Wednesday. Hillis was being rested. The Browns are disappointed Scott Fujita (knee) had to go on injured reserve, but he missed five straight games, so they have grown accustomed to playing without him.

SERIES HISTORY: 24th meeting. The Ravens lead the series, 16-7. The Browns are looking for their first home victory over the Ravens in three years. They swept the Ravens in 2007 but since then have lost five straight to their rivals and one-time Browns.



After beating up on a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, the Baltimore Ravens can clinch a berth in the playoffs if they can defeat a rookie one.

This is an unusual situation for the Ravens, who have never faced a first-year NFL quarterback in John Harbaugh's three seasons as the Baltimore head coach.

The last rookie quarterback to start against the Ravens was Buffalo's Trent Edwards, who beat the Ravens on Oct. 21, 2007.

On Sunday, the Ravens can reach the playoffs for a team-record third straight season if they can beat rookie quarterback Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns.

The quarterbacks that the Ravens have faced in the Harbaugh era have been more renowned than raw. Since the start of 2008, the Ravens have played 14 Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. In contrast, they've gone against four starting quarterbacks who've had less than three years of NFL experience.

The Ravens have dominated those young starting quarterbacks, going 4-0 against Oakland's JaMarcus Russell (2007), Pittsburgh's Dennis Dixon (2009), the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez (2010) and Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman (2010).

Only one has completed more than half of his passes against the Ravens (Freeman). Only one has produced more than 165 yards passing against them (Russell). And none has thrown more than one touchdown in a game against them.

Against the Ravens, those four quarterbacks have completed 48.6 percent of their throws and have averaged 152.2 yards passing. The combined passer rating against the Ravens is 66.9.

The key to beating younger quarterbacks is to confuse them.

"You want to make sure he doesn't see it like he saw it on the blackboard," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "Our thing is to mix up pressure and mix up four-man rush, five-man rush and three-man rush. Just don't give him a steady diet. You want to make him as uncomfortable as you can."

McCoy isn't the only young quarterback getting an opportunity this season. There have been eight rookies who have started or received significant playing time in 2010.

The range has gone from the good (St. Louis' Sam Bradford has passed for 3,065 yards) to the bad (Carolina's Jimmy Clausen has averaged 118.5 yards passing) to the ugly (Arizona's Max Hall has thrown one touchdown and six interceptions).

McCoy has had moderate success in six starts despite not ideal size or arm strength. The 6-1 quarterback has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and three interceptions (93.0 passer rating).

"I expect to see a lot of pressure," McCoy said of Sunday's game against the Ravens. "I see them coming after us a little bit. How we handle that is going to determine how successful we are in the game."


If ever there was a time the offense could use a jump start with a long return by Josh Cribbs, Sunday with the Baltimore Ravens' nasty defense in town is the time.

The Browns have lost to the Ravens five straight times. They led in the fourth quarter in Baltimore on Sept. 26, but gave up 10 unanswered points and were defeated, 24-17.

Cribbs is in his sixth season. He has never gone a full season without scoring a touchdown - until now.

Last season Cribbs accounted for 2,510 all-purpose yards, taking into account yards gained receiving and rushing plus yards gained on punt and kick returns.

In 2010, with two games to play, Cribbs has accounted for 1,109 yards - 672 on kick returns (20.4 average), 133 yards on punt returns (8.3 average), 246 yards receiving and 58 yards rushing on 17 carries. Last season he rushed for 381 yards on 55 carries.

"Josh is trying to be as helpful and productive and explosive as he can," coach Eric Mangini said. "He's a guy that has tremendous pride and tremendous commitment to the team. He's what you want from all perspectives, so he's frustrated with it too.

"We need to improve - and this has been a point of emphasis - collectively on the return game. It always falls on the returner, but you also have got to give him a chance to get started."

Cribbs has returned kicks longer than 30 yards only twice this season. He returned one 34 yards against the Falcons and one 36 yards vs. the Patriots.

Last season Cribbs returned three kicks for touchdowns.

Cribbs has been playing the last half of the season with a foot injury. He can't wear his normal shoe on his right foot. He has to wear a lineman's shoe because it is wider.

"It's excruciating pain," Cribbs said Thursday. "It's like a bone ... I can't even describe it. Before I got it, I couldn't explain what a pain like this would feel like. It's something I try to stay away from. That's why there are certain moves I can't make. Sometimes I think I'm 100 percent and I'll make a move and it'll remind me, 'No, you can't do that.'"

When a shoulder is dislocated, it is separated from the socket. A good trainer can pop it back in if the injury isn't severe and the player is good to go.

That is not what happened to Cribbs. He said the toes were jammed backward into the soft tissue of what he described as the planter's plate on the base of his right foot.

"It messed up the soft tissue on my foot," Cribbs said. "That's what's taking a lot of time to heal. Putting a whole bunch of pressure on that took time, and now putting force on it with my body weight ... I'm trying to do whatever I can to be out on the field."

Cribbs said with offseason rest he will be 100 percent by next season.



--WR Derrick Mason (ankle) was limited for a second straight day but he will start at Cleveland. He missed practice time with the same injury last week and still played.

--TE Todd Heap (hamstring) is expected to return after practicing for a second straight day. He has been limited but he hasn't had any setbacks with the injury. Heap has missed the past two games.

--FS Tom Zbikowski (back) didn't practice for a second straight day and is expected to miss his second straight game.

--WR David Reed (head) will likely miss Sunday's game after not practicing for a second straight day. Jalen Parmele will likely replace Reed as the team's kickoff returner.

--FS Haruki Nakamura (illness) was added to the injury report after not practicing. He is expected to play Sunday.

--LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (knee) was added to the injury report after not practicing. He has been a durable player in the past and should play Sunday.


--LB Eric Alexander missed practice Thursday with a groin injury.

--DE Kenyon Coleman missed practice with a knee injury.

--TE Robert Royal missed practice the second straight day with a shoulder injury.

--RB Peyton Hillis returned to practice on a limited basis. He missed practice Wednesday with a knee injury.

--QB Colt McCoy practiced Thursday without limitation after missing Wednesday with a stomach virus.



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