BEREA: Asking Browns quarterback Colt McCoy what he remembers about the Baltimore Ravens’ defense is like asking him to relive flashbacks of his worst nightmare.
In McCoy’s eight starts as a rookie last year, it was the Ravens’ defense that really baptized him into life in the AFC North, feasting on his relative inexperience. McCoy threw three interceptions (one on the Browns’ opening possession) in the 20-10 loss and finished the game with a 27.0 passer rating.
Two things stick out for McCoy.
“Their front seven is really good, they just are,” he said. “They rotate in and out, so they’re fresh. They’re playing really well. They have a lot of sacks, had nine last week.
“And you have to know where Ed Reed is. He’s a playmaker, a ballhawk. He can be here one time and there the next time. If we can handle those two things we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
Although McCoy carries more experience with him into Sunday’s game against the Ravens, it might not be much easier this time around, given that the teams are headed in opposite directions.
The Browns (4-7) lost 23-20 to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and have lost four of their past five games. The Ravens (8-3) have won four of their past five and are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers atop the division standings.
Worse for McCoy and the Browns is the fact that the Ravens lead the NFL in sacks with 38, including a franchise-high nine (three by outside linebacker Terrell Suggs) last week in a 16-6 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
“Nine sacks their last game, that’s pretty good,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “When you think of the Ravens, you think of a team that’s been a very fine defensive team for a lot of years regardless of who the coach has been.
“There’s no mystery, they’ve got talent at every level; the D-line, the linebackers and the secondary. They’ve got leadership at every level from the top down from Ed Reed to Ray Lewis and then up front with Suggs. So, they’ve got talent, they’ve got leadership and they’ve got an aggressive scheme. It’s the makings of a good defense.”
Suggs has 12 career sacks against the Browns — the most of any player in the league. If there’s a silver lining to that statistic, it’s that only four of Suggs’ sacks have come since left tackle Joe Thomas joined the Browns in 2007.
“Every year when we play them, they’re going to give us our best challenge because they put some impressive specimens out on the field,” Thomas said of the Ravens’ front seven.
It’s not just the Ravens’ defensive front the Browns have to worry about. The Ravens’ secondary is just as dangerous. Reed has 10 career interceptions against the Browns.
“He’s just really smart,” McCoy said of Reed. “He’s very instinctual and he takes chances. Sometimes guys who take chances like that are hard to get a read on. He just does a really nice job and you just have to know where he’s at.”
The Browns might catch a bit of a break if Lewis (right turf toe) can’t play for the third consecutive week.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t share much about Lewis’ availability during his league conference call Wednesday, but he told reporters earlier in the week that Lewis was the injured Raven who is the “furthest away” from returning to the field.
The Ravens swarmed 49ers quarterback Alex Smith for their career day without the aid of Lewis last week.
“I assume Ray will play this week,” McCoy said.
“Ed Reed does a good job obviously. [He’s] a hall of famer, probably. You just have to know where they are at all times and you can’t get caught sleeping and trying to throw a quick route and not know where he is.”
Even if the Browns find a way to escape with a win Sunday at Browns Stadium, the rematch isn’t far away, set for Christmas Eve in Baltimore.
“Year-in and year-out, the Ravens prove themselves as a great defense,” Browns running back Peyton Hillis said on a league conference call.
“We know that as a team. We know that we have to approach this game with an aspect of being physical and aggressive and getting ready to go out there and hit them in the mouth, because you know that they’re going to bring it, too.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com.