Go ahead, temper your enthusiasm, Browns fans – that’s what always happens. But make no mistake, this is the best chance the Browns have had to beat the Baltimore Ravens in four years.
The Ravens have never lost to the Browns under quarterback Joe Flacco. His first two victories against them in 2008 established his future with the franchise while bringing about the end of Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage in Cleveland (which was the longest front office regime of the Browns’ expansion era).
In 2009, under Eric Mangini, the Browns started their season a franchise worst 1-11, and fell to the Ravens twice more by a combined score of 50-3.
34-3 in their first game, and later, 16-0, on national TV. They never had a chance, and everyone knew it. Everyone.
In 2010, the Ravens handled the Browns twice more, and in those four victories against Mangini, the Browns used four different quarterbacks: Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy. You’ll never win with that formula.
Last season, under Pat Shurmur and Colt McCoy, the Browns were again in start-up mode and the Ravens were en route to another AFC Championship game. Chalk up two more wins for Baltimore, capping three straight years of complete dominance.
Nine wins in a row. An NFL eternity.
Now, the teams are still far apart—one a contender and the other merely hoping to finally be on the rise. But, if the Browns have a legitimate chance for a win this time around, that has to mean something.
For starters, the Browns played better than expected in the team’s first 2012 meeting in Baltimore. Since then, the momentum has turned towards Cleveland. It’s starting to seem like that was then, and this is now.
The Ravens will be without two key defenders this Sunday: Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis, their heart and soul and arguably the greatest linebacker to ever play the game.
The Browns, on the other hand, have Joe Haden back, who was under suspension in their first meeting of the year, and defensive tackle Phil Taylor.
Joe Flacco has been average on the road this year – pretty much par for the course for him, despite having a career record of 4-0 in Cleveland. Meanwhile, Brandon Weeden isn’t in any “elite” conversations yet, but has still played better than expected. And Trent Richardson is good. Everyone knows it.
To boot, Jimmy Haslam III has assumed official ownership of the Browns and they seem to be warming up because if it (maybe). They have won their last two games at home, stand 2-2 overall in Cleveland Browns Stadium, and are hot (for them at least), winning two of their last three.
This is it. November 4, 2012. There’s hope.
And with that, this is the Browns’ chance to finally to turn our “maybes” into legitimate stepping stones for the fans to point to. Defeating a divisional rival, who used to be you, for the first time since November 18, 2007 has to qualify.
I’m excited to see the Browns try and take that step, and win or loss, this is as good as we have had it in a long, long time.