BALTIMORE — Editor's note: Video at the top of this story was originally published on Nov. 22, 2021.
The Cleveland Browns are coming off a largely unimpressive win over the Detroit Lions last week and now have their biggest game to date. The Browns travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens on Sunday Night Football, which will air on WKYC Channel 3 at 8:20 p.m. Coverage starts at 7 p.m.
A win means the team’s playoff and AFC North hopes remain alive and in good health. A loss, and the outlook to not only win the division but advance to the postseason looks rather bleak.
Here are three keys to beating the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12.
Contain Lamar Jackson
This season, Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson has lifted the Ravens time after time from the depths of a would-be loss into a miraculous win. This season, Baltimore actually has a winning record when trailing entering the fourth quarter of games -- and it’s almost all thanks to Jackson. The Browns have only beat Jackson as a starter once in his career, with their only win over Baltimore with him as a starter coming early in the 2019 season.
This season, Jackson is one of the front runners for the NFL MVP and has been a one-man wrecking crew in fourth quarters. That said, Jackson has been susceptible to turning the ball over this season, with 11 turnovers in nine games. Jackson is having his worst season as a passer, statistically, since he became Baltimore’s full-time starter in 2019. While his yards per game number is at a career high, his passer rating, QBR, interception percentage and touchdown percentage are all at career worsts.
Jackson, of course, has still been a major threat on the ground. He’s averaging 6.0 yards per carry this season, which is tied with Browns running back Nick Chubb for the best mark in the NFL. That said, Jackson has reached the end zone only twice while fumbling five times on the season.
Win first and second down
Baltimore’s defense hasn’t been as good as it has been in previous years. The Ravens haven’t been forcing turnovers very often, ranking 30th in the NFL in percentage of opponent drives that end in a turnover. But what the Ravens have done better than anyone else is get off the field on third down. Baltimore opponents have converted just 30.5 percent of their third downs on the season, a mark that’s the best in the NFL.
Of course, this means the Browns need to be successful on first and second down. The Browns need to be able to run the ball and stay out of obvious passing situations. Having running back Kareem Hunt back from injured reserve in this game should be a big deal for the Browns. The Browns haven’t played a game with both Hunt and running back Nick Chubb in the lineup since the loss against the Los Angeles Chargers back in early October.
When the Browns have both Chubb and Hunt in the lineup, they’ve averaged more than 28 points per game. With one or neither of them, the Browns have averaged just 17 points per game, a number that’s inflated by the 41-point outburst against the Cincinnati Bengals. In fact, without both in the lineup, the Browns only scored more than 17 points against the Bengals. This season, the Browns have converted on just 37.4 percent of their third down attempts, a number that could certainly be better with Hunt on the field as opposed to the alternative.
Get off the field on third down
Speaking of third downs, the Browns have been terrible defensively in that situation. The Browns rank 24th in the NFL in third down defense, allowing 43.1 percent of opponent attempts to be converted. This isn’t an area the Ravens have been particularly great, converting just 35.4 percent of their third down attempts on offense, 25th in the NFL.
The Browns have been much better on first and second down defensively, but when it comes time to get off the field, the Browns have struggled mightily. This reverts back to being able to stop Jackson. While the Browns defense has certainly been disappointed this season, the unit is one that was built in mind with stopping Jackson and the Ravens. This will be a big week for rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and second-year safety Grant Delpit as they likely will be tasked with trying to keep Jackson in check and get off the field.