Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Ravens-Browns game:
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. the Browns' blitzes
The Browns didn't sack Flacco in the first meeting with Baltimore and are the only team to not bring down the Ravens' starting quarterback this season. In the first meeting with Cleveland, Flacco completed 22-of-31 passes for 262 yards with three TD passes, all to WR Anquan Boldin, who was covered by CB Eric Wright, who was later benched and is now out for the season.
The Browns weren't passive in their attempts to bring pressure. On the pivotal TD pass of the game to Boldin with 9:13 left that put Baltimore up for good at 21-17, the Browns blitzed seven players, and Boldin beat Wright one-on-one. Also, on Boldin's second TD catch, ILB Chris Gocong came free on a delayed blitz up the middle but just couldn't quite get to Flacco in time.
Other teams have had far more success getting to Flacco recently. He's been sacked 19 times in the last five games, including three times by New Orleans in Week 15. Overall, he's been sacked 35 times this season, two shy of a career-high.
The Ravens' pass protection has struggled in multiple ways. OLT Michael Oher hasn't played well recently and has had trouble with blitzes to his side. RB Ray Rice has had issues finishing blocks. Also, Flacco will hold on to the ball a little too long at times.
With the Ravens having problems protecting Flacco, and with Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan not shy about sending extra pass rushers, look for Cleveland to bring the heat on occasion. Perhaps Ryan will dial up some pressures involving his defensive backs, as the Ravens have allowed 4½ sacks to DBs in the last four games. Cleveland could also get its linebackers involved; note Gocong's nearly successful delayed blitz in the first game.