The Browns have had another solid first half offensively, while the Browns defense got traction against the inept Baltimore offense to give the Browns a strong 13-7 first half lead. The game isn't as close as the score, as the Ravens have scored only seven points thanks to a interception return for a touchdown by Ray Lewis.
Baltimore ended the first half with 38 total yards (compared to 231 for the Browns) and three critical turnovers which kept the momentum on the Browns side throughout the first. Of the Ravens 38 yards, 31 came in the waning moments with the Browns playing a loose defense.
A couple of keys to the first half:
Lack of Discipline: Both the Browns and Ravens made big mental mistakes in the first half where their emotions took control and caused idiotic behavior after the play. Haloti Ngata took the Ravens out of scoring position after a fumble by throwing a punch at Joe Thomas, and Jamal Lewis spiked the ball after a long run. Both players cost their teams 15 yards and impacted their ability to score. Later, Kellen Winslow and Trevor Pryce got into it after the play. If either side had stayed under control, they would have had a key advantage. The Browns have also been whistled for numerous holds and false starts. It appears the noise and Ravens aggressive defense has the Browns offensive line jumping. They need to settle down during the half.
Chudzinski Sticks to the Run: The Browns have had luck on the ground in the first half, primarily due to some powerful blocking on the left side of the Browns line. Rushing yards are tough to get against the Ravens, but Chudzinski didn't give up on it and allowed his offensive line to start wearing down the Ravens line. Jamal Lewis is showing some inspired and powerful running, getting yards after contact and, at one point, leaping over linebackers for yardage. Chudzinski's persistence has paid off by allowing the Browns to hold onto the ball and not allow Kyle Boller to get any rhythm at all.
Ravens Offense Weak Throughout: There are no bright spots on the Ravens offense so far today. Their offensive line is not protecting well in pass protection, allowing even the Browns front seven to penetrate. Willis McGahee is not getting yards on his own, and Kyle Boller is horrible. He hasn't been accurate when given time, hasn't been able to find receivers, and pulls down the ball in a panic. The Ravens didn't find their tight end (a key part of their offense) or get their initial first down until 1:13 left and with the Browns secondary playing a very loose defense to prevent a downfield throw. The Ravens should take Boller out and give Troy Smith a shot. Boller is a bust, without a doubt.
SOME THINGS THAT WORRY ME
Browns Turn Down Ravens Gifts: The Browns have dominated the Ravens in total yardage, turnovers, and so forth, but own only a six-point lead due to sloppiness on offense. When a team dominates like the Browns did without mounting a large lead, it usually returns to hurt them. They will emerge unscathed if the Ravens offensive ineptitude continues, but they're in danger if the Ravens manage to put it together. The Browns offensive line needs to settle down, now.
Eric Wright's Leg: As I mentioned on the Live Feed, it was clear that Wright had an injury in his right leg. It turns out that's a knee, and whenever a youngster hurts a knee it's worrisome. We'll probably not know a lot until Wednesday, unfortunately.
Derek Anderson is Mortal: I said several weeks ago that DA's value peaked after the two wins over winless opponents, and holes in his game are appearing as the Browns play tougher opponents. The inception to Lewis was another "what are you doing, Derek?" moment, and there have been other less painful ones. The good news, however, is that Anderson's throws underneath have been more effective.
IN ORDER TO WIN, THE BROWNS NEED TO:
- Settle down their offensive line
- Stick to the run
- Keep the Ravens from throwing to TE Sypniewski
- Keep eight or nine in the box to force the Ravens to rely on Boller's arm