The Baltimore Ravens spent the past seven months stewing on a disappointing playoff loss to the Titans. They took all of those frustrations out on the rival Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon. Baltimore jumped out early on Cleveland, turned a drop by wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. into points before halftime and continued the onslaught through the end of the game, 38-6.
Outside of a poorly-thrown touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews, quarterback Lamar Jackson was dazzling once again. He threw just five incompletions and used his scrambling chances to dance around the competition. Wide receiver Marquise Brown and Andrews were fantastic against a depleted Browns secondary.
There were very few bright spots for Cleveland. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry and tight end David Njoku produced when targeted but, as a whole, the team struggled to create separation downfield.
Why the Ravens won
It is Week 1 so the commentary is going to be simple before the narrative becomes overplayed; Jackson was incredible. The football is an extension of his body. He threaded a third-and-long throw to Andrews down the field in addition to hitting Brown in stride for a huge gain. When the pocket collapsed, he was able to escape and get positive yardage.
Continuity has been the discussion for most of the offseason and it played out as expected in M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore returned a lion’s share of their starting offensive unit. There was not a beat missed between the conclusion of the 2020 NFL playoffs and the start of the 2020 regular season campaign.
Why the Browns lost
Where does one begin when tasked with explaining how the Browns lost? It could be the first half drop on third-and-2 by Beckham that allowed Baltimore to move down the field and secure points before halftime. It could have been the miscommunication issues along the defensive line. It could be that Baker Mayfield is still unwilling to take the check downs given to him. It could be the inability for pass catchers to create separation downfield. It could be the cushion provided by Cleveland’s secondary and the equally accommodating lack of pass rush. It could be a combination of all those things and more.
Play of the game
Njoku had requested a trade this offseason after the team signed Austin Hooper and drafted Harrison Bryant. It is good that Cleveland did not oblige because Njoku was one of the few brights spots for this team. On a second-and-10 from Cleveland’s 41-yard line, Mayfield threw a jump ball in the vicinity of Njoku, who did the rest. With Tavon Young in coverage, Njoku grown man’d him and took the ball away at its peak for one of Cleveland’s biggest plays of the game.
Cleveland has a home game against another AFC North rival — the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football. Baltimore hits the road for the first time this season as it is scheduled to face the Houston Texans and quarterback Deshaun Watson next weekend.