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Browns-Ravens matchup of the day: Wednesday

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Posted Dec. 21, 2011 @ 10:36 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Saturday's Browns-Ravens game: 

Ravens WRs Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Lee Evans vs. Browns CBs Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown and Dimitri Patterson

The weather conditions were unfavorable for a pass-heavy attack in the first meeting between these teams on Dec. 4 in Cleveland. At game time, winds were out of the south at 30 mph, and rain was also occassionally a factor. Facing these conditions, and matched up against a defense that had struggled vs. the run, the Ravens leaned on the ground game with great success, racking up 290 yards and controlling the Cleveland defense at the line of scrimmage.

By game's end, the Ravens had registered a convincing 24-10 victory, and they had done so attempting 55 rushes and just 24 passes. Ravens wideouts were targeted just 11 times in the win, catching a mere three passes for 64 yards.

Overall, the Browns' pass coverage was solid in defeat, something they can build upon as they try to turn the tables in the rematch.

Haden's athleticism and anticipation have made him a rising star. In the first meeting with Baltimore, he made a key play with Baltimore leading 7-0 late in the second quarter, knocking away a pass intended for WR Lee Evans in the endzone. The Ravens were forced to settle for a field goal. However, Haden surrendered a 32-yard completion to Smith, the speedy rookie from Maryland, in the final stages of the third quarter. On the play, Haden gave Smith a big cushion, and Smith broke free over the middle. Ravens QB Joe Flacco, who has a very strong arm, delivered a nearly 30-yard strike. S Mike Adams ran into Haden, and if not for Haden grabbing Smith's jersey after the catch, Smith could have broken free and potentially scored.

Brown played well in the first matchup. He starred in a two-play sequence early in the second half. On a second-down play, he covered Boldin tightly and broke up a pass. Then, on third down, he jammed Smith hard as the wideout came off the line, essentialy rendering him a non-target for Flacco, who was sacked by DE Jabaal Sheard. The ball came loose, and DE Jayme Mitchell recovered.

Patterson, who covers the slot, had a nice breakup of a short pass Flacco intended for Boldin early in the third quarter of that first matchup. Flacco didn't deliver the pass with quite enough pace, and Patterson was able to knock the ball away. But earlier in the game, Patterson was penalized for pass interference against Boldin, giving the Ravens a first down at the Cleveland three with 28 seconds left. Boldin beat Patterson off the line, which started the chain of events that led to the penalty. 

Boldin and Smith are the Ravens' top options at wideout. Evans, a starter early this season before an ankle injury knocked him out of the lineup, has the ability to be a strong complementary performer if he can recapture his prior form. He has yet to make much of an impact, catching four passes for 74 yards in 21 targets.

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