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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
In Week Three, the Browns gashed the Ravens with the running game, with RB Peyton Hillis rolling for 144 yards and a TD on 22 carries. QB Seneca Wallace completed 18-of-24 passes for 141 yards and a TD. Also, Cleveland didn't commit a turnover.
In the end, though, the Browns couldn't stop WR Anquan Boldin, who caught three TD passes from QB Joe Flacco, and those scores were the difference in the game. Cleveland didn't sack Flacco once, and it allowed Baltimore to convert 6-of-12 third downs. The Browns couldn't hold a 17-14 fourth-quarter lead and fell 24-17.
The Browns have established that they can play with the Ravens, but can they avoid being swept by their division rivals for the third consecutive season? That could come down to their rushing offense and run defense. Hillis was held to 59 yards by Cincinnati in Week 15, with just 26 yards on seven carries with a long run of five yards in the first half. Meanwhile, the Browns surrendered 150 yards on 31 carries to Bengals RB Cedric Benson.
While the Browns had all sorts of problems vs. Boldin in the first meeting with Baltimore, Ravens RB Ray Rice also gave them some trouble, rushing for 80 yards on 15 carries. Rice rolled for 153 yards on 31 carries against New Orleans Sunday as Baltimore emphasized the run, and it won't be a surprise if the Ravens decide to employ a run-first approach in this game considering how well it worked a week ago.
Hillis must at least be Rice's equal on Sunday for the Browns to turn the tables. Also, the Browns' run defense, which allows 129.2 yards per game, needs to step up, too. And, of course, there is the matter of covering Boldin better.
The Browns' last four games were against clubs that won't be headed to the playoffs. The Ravens will likely play into January and pose a host of potential matchup problems for a Browns team that's lost two straight this season and five games overall to Baltimore.