A look at the Ravens vs. Browns: How do the Browns do against the run?
Since their last match up in week 4, both teams have gone in completely opposite directions; the Ravens have won all ten games since; the Browns have won. The Browns still harbored playoff chances going into last week’s match up against the Cardinals. However, they put in arguably their most embarrassing performance of the season, losing 38-24 against a team with a 3-9-1 record.
Since week 7 the Ravens have won every game apart from their two games against the Bills and 49ers, who are two of the best teams in the league, by two or more scores. This includes teams likes the Seahawks, the Patriots, the Texans, and the Rams.
Last week’s loss led to multiple Browns’ players questioning other player’s efforts. It would be an understatement to say that the team morale is bad.
The Ravens’ run game performed well in the first match up, but Lamar had probably his worst game of the season, throwing two of his six interceptions on the season. The multi-headed monster that the Ravens’ offense has morphed into is certainly not what you want to face when your season is falling apart.
The Browns’ run defense has been dysfunctional for the whole season. They have struggled immensely against runs to the outside, such as outside zones, tosses and counters. The main reason they struggle with these runs is that their linebackers are aggressive, but very undisciplined. The following two plays illustrate this.
The first play is from Philip Lindsay and the Broncos. The Broncos fake an inside zone run. They use a wide receiver to sift block Morgan Burnett, who crashes down. The Browns’ rookie linebacker, Mack Wilson, confuses the sift block for a jet sweep, which takes him out of the play. The rest of the defense plays the inside zone aggressively, taking themselves out of the play. Joe Schobert, the middle linebacker, who has been terrible in run defense all season, was paralyzed by the deception and was never in a position to make the tackle.
If there’s one play to summarize the Browns’ run defense it’s this one.
The second play is from the 49ers’ week five shellacking of the Ravens. The 49ers and Ravens have not only had the two best rushing attacks in the league this season, but also the two most creative. This was the first play of the game for the 49ers’ offense. The play is again a faked inside zone counter. Like on the last play with how the Broncos’ used a sift block, which resembles a jet sweep, the motion from Kyle Juszczyk, the 49ers’ all-pro fullback, adds additional deception to the play.
The two linebackers are again Mack Wilson and Joe Schubert. They again play the inside zone very aggressively. They even run into each other, which is a comical illustration of their run defense. With the help of excellent blocks from Kyle Juszczyk and George Kittle, Matt Breida had a massive crease to run through, and converted it into an untouched 83 yard touchdown. He reached the highest speed of any ball carrier this season on the play. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ running backs will punish the Browns in similar fashion.
The Broncos game proceeded the 49ers one, so the Broncos undoubtedly learned from the 49ers, and I expect the Ravens’ offensive coaching staff to do the same.
When I do a breakdown of the key plays from the game I definitely expect to include a few runs from the Ravens as it’s very hard to envisage the Browns slowing the run game down.