If the Cleveland Browns have been consistent in one area in the last 12 seasons, it has been the team's inability to stop the run. That has been well documented. On Dec. 4, the Browns showcased that consistency in a 24-10 home loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
In that first meeting, Ray Rice finished with 204 yards on 29 carries. In all, the Ravens ran the ball 56 times. Heck, even 34-year-old Ricky Williams found his pre-pot smoking, yoga-teaching form, as he rushed for 76 yards on 16 carries.
On Saturday, the Browns play the Ravens again, this time in Baltimore.
"Obviously some things (in the run defense) broke down," Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said at his Wednesday press conference. "It wasn't always the same thing. Everybody's got to do their job on every play. I've got to make better calls, I've got to play them better, people have to stay in their gaps, but it's not consistently one thing. Again, their scheme is very good. They are a very talented team. They do a nice job with it."
Baltimore made no qualms in the first meeting. The Ravens were going to run the ball and run the ball often. They dominated the line of scrimmage, they dominated the ground and they dominated time of possession (37:37-22:26). Don't expect the Ravens to change their plan of attack this Saturday.
The Browns are ranked 31st in the NFL allowing 145.4 yards rushing per game and one of the season's worst performances came against these Ravens.
Although that stat isn't pretty, since the Ravens loss, the Browns defense held Pittsburgh Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall to 76 yards on 18 carries and Arizona Cardinals' Chris "Beanie" Wells to 51 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
"We're not big on numbers except for that ‘W'," Jauron said. "We're still not winning and that's the deal.
"I believe that our guys are obviously at this point in the year they're a little bit familiar with what we're doing every week. They get a little more experienced every week. They're good guys. They'll play hard. They sell out for you and we've just got to hope it keeps going that way, keeps trending and getting a little better all the time."
The Browns had their moments last week against Arizona with an impressive opening drive that resulted in a touchdown. Peyton Hillis finished with 99 yards rushing. Greg Little finished with 131 yards receiving. In the end, the Browns blew a 17-7 fourth-quarter lead and the game ended in familiar fashion – with a loss.
That makes it four consecutive seasons with at least 10 losses. And now, the Browns play a team they haven't beaten in seven consecutive tries.
Wallace is no stranger to the Ravens. He faced them last season with the Browns and when he was in Seattle. In order for the Browns offense to be productive in this rematch, he said the key is first down.
"You've got to do your best to keep it manageable on third down and stay out of those third and longs," Wallace said. "You know you're going to get those exotic blitzes, that's what they've been known for years. We've got to make sure we keep the down and distance very manageable."
Two games remain for Cleveland against its two biggest rivals. Once again, it is Baltimore and Pittsburgh positioning its playoff spots while the Browns are simply playing for pride.
Will pride be enough to overcome a playoff-bound team? Probably not, but since the game is on Christmas Eve, there has got to be some eggnog within reach to help pass the time.