Still, Lewis does not run for nearly 300 yards on a weekly basis. What did the Browns do wrong that enabled a record-setting day?
Did the Ravens Exploit Courtney Brown's Knee Problems?
Former 2000 number one pick Courtney Brown has battled injuries throughout his time in Cleveland. While he has shown flashes of dominance that swayed the Browns to select him in the draft out of Penn State University, he has not shown the ability to merit his draft position.
Brown is working his way back from the controversial micro-fracture surgery on his knee, and is not the player he was prior to the surgery.
But, watching the Browns latest gem Sunday, the Ravens did not consistently attack the edges of the defense to gain their advantage. They beat the Browns up between the tackles.
Was It Someone Else?
Orpheus Roye was the Browns most consistent offensive lineman in the 2002 season. He also played well in the 2003 regular season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, as did most of the Browns defensive personnel. If his attitude, work ethic, and understanding of position responsibilities were contagious, this team might not be sitting here today wondering what happened. Roye did not have one of his better games against the Ravens, but none of the defensive players that lined-up on the field could claim they were successful.
There was actually a promising sign Sunday, which was the appearance of a pass-rush coming from defensive end Kenard Lang. Coming off a 2002 season where Lang was hampered by ankle problems, the Browns DE looked quick getting off the ball against the Ravens. Unfortunately, Lang was occasionally sealed off and moved out of position by the physical Baltimore offensive line during running plays. In all, though, Lang played one of his best games since coming to the Browns as a free agent acquisition prior to the 2002 season.
The Problem Lies in Fundamentals
The problem that was evident in the 2002 season, and throughout the 2003 preseason, gave rise to the massive defensive breakdown on Sunday:
This Browns team does not play solid fundamental defense. At least, not yet, under new defensive coordinator Dave Campo.
The defensive line has shown a tendency to "miss" the gaps called out in the defensive scheme. Too often the Browns are caught out of position and physically pushed off the ball. What may be a larger issue still, is that this defensive line does not sustain a physical presence to keep the opposing guards and centers off the young group of linebackers that the team is using.
Youth and inexperience in the linebacking corps has not helped the situation, but that wasn't unexpected when starting three players that had not started an NFL game prior to the season opener. The Browns have hoped to overcome their inexperience with speed and quickness. At times, they have shown the ability to use that speed to over-pursue and fill the wrong gaps.
The team continues to struggle in the simplest facets of the game, such as wrapping up a ball-carrier. How many more times will we see a Cleveland defensive back lunge at a ball-carrier, or attempt another arm-tackle?
The next time will be too soon.
These poor fundamentals were front-and-center against the Ravens on Sunday, and they did not just appear recently. The issue with the Browns run defense was magnified due to the tremendous effort of Lewis, who visibly ran through defenders again and again.
There was a reason why the Baltimore Ravens were extremely confident heading into this game. Three hundred-plus yards later on the ground, it was clear that the Ravens had the Browns number.
Hopefully there will be no spin by the Browns on the events of Sunday. The bottom line was they just played their worst defensive ball-game of the Butch Davis era.