(Three points of interest in today’s game)
BACK TO BALTIMORE
Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger might have a touch of nostalgia before kickoff. The Ravens will celebrate their Super Bowl win with a pregame video and the unveiling of a banner, and Kruger was an integral part of the championship with 4.5 sacks in the postseason, including two in the Super Bowl.
Kruger might also feel a bit of bitterness. The Ravens determined Kruger wasn’t needed and let him leave in free agency. The Browns pounced with a five-year, $40.5 million offer and Kruger got off to a good start in the opener with a sack and strong play against the run. He has bigger plans for his former team – like tearing someone’s head off.
“Absolutely, that is the goal every week,” he said. “As soon as I knew I was coming here, being able to play against those guys, I knew it was going to be intense.”
Kruger was overshadowed by the superstars on the Ravens defense and was upset he played only 22 snaps in the Super Bowl. He has the chance, going against right tackle Michael Oher, to show the Ravens he wasn’t expendable and the Browns he was worth the money.
RIGHT SIDE ALL WRONG
The Browns don’t stand a chance if right guard Oniel Cousins and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz play as poorly as they did against the Dolphins. Cousins drew four penalties and was repeatedly driven backward. Schwartz had no answer for Pro Bowl end Cameron Wake, who had 2.5 sacks.
“We’re tightening up some protection issues,” center Alex Mack said. “We’re just working hard, working on our technique, also scheme-wise, try to mix it up a little bit more, keep the defense on the back of their heels.”
The Dolphins have a good defensive front, but the Ravens’ might be better. Cousins will face off against tackles Haloti Ngata and Arthur Jones and end Chris Canty. Schwartz will match up against outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who has nine sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in four games against the Browns.
Coordinator Norv Turner will help Cousins and Schwartz by chipping with tight ends and giving support from running backs because he can’t let his game plan get blown up for a second straight week. The focus on the right side will leave left tackle Joe Thomas alone with linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has 13 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 19 games against the Browns.
CARRYING THE LOAD?
Trent Richardson picked up where he left off as a rookie – complaining about not getting enough carries. Richardson insisted he’s behind whatever the coaching staff calls, but he was clearly unhappy he carried only 13 times in the opener in what was a tight game into the fourth quarter.
Turner said he always plans to get Richardson the ball, but was “caught up in trying to win the game.” There is sure to be a greater emphasis on involving Richardson against the Ravens. He rushed for 105 yards on 25 carries and added six catches for 31 yards in the second meeting against Baltimore last year and is healthier now.
Richardson always sees himself as an elite back worthy of the No. 3 pick. The stats haven’t agreed. He has 997 yards through 16 games – third in Browns history – with only a 3.6-yard average per carry. Turner needs to recommit to Richardson, but it would be easier if Richardson could sustain his early success throughout the game.
Former Ravens on the Browns roster – outside linebacker Paul Kruger, right guard Oniel Cousins, kicker Billy Cundiff, receiver Tori Gurley, nose tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and running back/kickoff returner Bobby Rainey
Rushing yards allowed by the Browns on 23 carries vs. Miami in the opener, which led the league and tied for second-fewest in team history.
First down picked up by the Browns in 14 third-down attempts vs. Miami.
BROWNS VS. RAVENS
WHERE: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore
WHEN: Today, 1 p.m.
RECORDS: Browns 0-1; Ravens 0-1
LAST WEEK: Browns lost 23-10 at home to Dolphins; Ravens lost 49-27 at Denver on Sept. 5
SERIES: Ravens lead 21-7, 11-3 in Baltimore
LAST MEETING: Ravens won 25-15 on Nov. 3 in Cleveland
COACHES: Rob Chudzinski is 0-1 with Browns and overall; John Harbaugh is 63-31 with Ravens and overall, including playoffs
TV/RADIO: Channel 19, with Marv Albert and Rich Gannon; WKRK 92.3-FM, WKNR 850-AM, WNCX 98.5-FM
NFL RANKINGS: Browns – offense T-22nd (30th rushing, T-17th passing), defense 8th (1st rushing, 17th passing); Ravens — offense 9th (28th rushing, 6th passing), defense 32nd (T-8th rushing, 32nd passing)
BROWNS UPDATE: Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the No. 6 pick in the draft, will make his NFL debut after missing the opener with a bruised lung. He will come off the bench and might also play special teams.
** Tight end Jordan Cameron set career highs in the opener with nine catches for 108 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown. He’s the only Cleveland tight end with a 100-yard game in an opener.
** The Browns have 12 rookies on the roster and were the second-youngest team to open the season, with an average age of 25 years, 272 days.
** End Desmond Bryant tied a career high with two sacks in the opener — his first game with the Browns – and has a sack in five straight games. He added a team-high-tying 10 tackles.
** For the fifth time in six seasons, the Browns will face the Super Bowl champ. The Browns beat the champ three times during the span.
RAVENS UPDATE: Harbaugh beat his brother, Jim, in the Super Bowl. He has nine postseason wins, the most by a coach in his first five seasons, and is the only coach since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.
** The Ravens have won two straight AFC North titles.
** Baltimore has outscored Cleveland 251-122 during its 10-game win streak in the series.
** Baltimore has a plus-14 turnover margin during the streak vs. Cleveland, totaling 18 interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
** Speedy receiver Torrey Smith was fourth in the NFL last year with a 17.4-yard average per catch. He caught 49 passes for 855 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught four for 92 yards last week.
BROWNS INJURY REPORT: Out: G Shawn Lauvao (ankle); Doubtful: DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf); Questionable: WR Travis Benjamin (thigh), S T.J. Ward (shoulder); Probable: LB Barkevious Mingo (lung), CB Buster Skrine (shoulder)
RAVENS INJURY REPORT: Out: WR Jacoby Jones (knee); Doubtful: C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe); Questionable: DT Art Jones (illness), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh); Probable: T Michael Oher (ankle)
THE PICK: Browns show improvement in Week 2, but an upset when the Ravens had nine days off after a loss and are celebrating their Super Bowl is too much to ask. Ravens 27, Browns 20.