BALTIMORE, Maryland -Be prepared Browns fans, the Ravens intend on making it a very long day on the lakefront in Cleveland, Ohio.
Ravens head coach Brian Billick realizes that this is an improved Browns team, but quickly adds that the Browns will be against a team that incorporates one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
"The Browns are an improved team, they are playing well defensively," Billick said early in the week. "They are aggressive and have been very competitive."
Offensively, the look that the Ravens will provide the Browns is much different from a season ago. Running back Jamel Lewis is out for the year following knee surgery and his replacement, Terry Allen hasn't struck fear into the opposition.
"Losing Jamel was a loss for us and the running game hasn't been where I want it to be," Billick said. "We are throwing the ball well, it has opened some things up and Elvis Grbac has been a key acquisition."
With Grbac at quarterback, the Ravens have been throwing the ball much more and with great success. Coming into this game with a 3-2 record, many would believe that this Ravens team has struggled.
Against Cincinnati the Ravens had numerous opportunities and just didn't get it done. Without the ball-control running game that the team displayed in the 2000 season, the Ravens have somewhat become a pass first type team.
The Ravens have not run the ball effectively so far in the 2001 season and have relied heavily on passing the football. This Ravens team has taken upon a look closer to that of the Minnesota Vikings offense that Billick directed prior to becoming the head coach of the Ravens.
Last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, the Ravens defense was scorched by Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre. Favre passed for 337 yards passing and three touchdowns in leading the Packers 31-23 victory Sunday in Green Bay.
Leading the league against the run, Baltimore shouldn't have much of a problem against the below average rushing attack of the Browns.
Opponents have had success speading the field against the Ravens, the Packers were extremely effective with this approach. The Packers didn't run the ball well, but Favre was magnificant moving within the pocket, to find receivers in the seams of the defense.
Browns quarterback Tim Couch has been tremendous in the fourth quarter of games this season. His quarterback rating is in excess of 100.0 and has played well when the game has been on the line.
The Ravens defense is made to stop the run and force the oppostion into mistakes. Baltimore can dominate the line of scrimmage with spectacular play from the front seven in their defensive alignments.
The defensive gameplan for the Ravens is to completely shutdown the run, pressure and blitz the opposition, outnumbering them at the point of attack. Baltimore is relentless defensively and does not let up until the final whistle sounds.
The Browns offensive line must protect and pickup the varied blitz schemes that the Ravens will throw at Couch, or this could be an extremely long and painful afternoon.
Improved blocking from the running backs and tight-ends are critical for the Browns. If they can contain the Ravens at the line of scrimmage, the Browns will be in this game.
The plan for success was laid out by the Packers, now it will be up to Butch Davis and company execute the blueprints.
This much we can add, the Browns did take notice of the Green Bay gameplan and figure that there was something to be learned and utilized.Notes:
Wide receiver Dennis Northcutt has been elevated into the starting lineup for this game, replacing rookie Quincy Morgan. Northcutt, coming off a shoulder/clavicle injury is a welcome addition to the Browns offense.
Defensive end Courtney Brown has practiced this week, but it remains doubtful that he will see playing time.