- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2017

BALTIMORE — In John Harbaugh’s post-game press conference after a 24-10 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, it was almost an afterthought. The Ravens coach finished his opening remarks, mentioning guys were “pretty hacked off” letting plays get away from them but it was a solid team effort. 

“What can you tell us about Yanda?” a reporter asked. “Oh thanks,” Harbaugh replied. “I’m going to give two injury announcements here, because they’re both long-term injuries.” 

Right guard Marshal Yanda is out for the season following a fracture in his ankle and rookie linebacker Bam Bradley tore his ACL. The first, Yanda’s injury, is potentially season-altering for the Ravens. 

Yanda, a six-time Pro Bowler, is regarded as the league’s best interior offensive lineman. As much as the Ravens’ formula for success has been with running the ball and defense, Yanda’s consistency has played a major part of that over the years.

Now, he’s lost for the season.

“There is not a word in the English dictionary that can describe — well I can’t find one right now — what Marshal is to us,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “It hurts.That hurts to lose your bell cow. … We are going to miss him, but we still have to play Raven football.” 

How different does Raven football look without Yanda? It’s hard to say. Harbaugh didn’t even want to entertain the notion, partly because of his principles as head coach. Harbaugh said he always will maintain his faith. 

“There’s no testimony without a test,” Harbaugh said. “So bring on the test.” 

Yanda’s injury occurred on the second play in the second half when he was rolled up on by Browns defensive lineman Danny Shelton. 

Before that, Baltimore spent much of Sunday’s victory sticking to the formula of past successful Ravens teams. Run the ball, make stops on defense. 

The Ravens revamped their run game in the offseason, hiring offensive assistant Greg Roman to change to a power-based scheme. Keeping mostly the same personnel at running back, the Ravens figured Roman’s designs would be enough to get the Ravens back to a dominant rushing attack.

In two games, Terrance West and Javorius Allen have given defenses all they can handle. Against the Browns, West and Allen weren’t as dominant on the ground, but they were factors in the passing game — giving the Ravens much needed versatility.

Together, the two had 146 of the Ravens’ 337 yards. Running back Alex Collins, who was signed to 53-man roster Saturday, also gave the Ravens fresh legs later in the game, running for 42 yards on seven carries. 

“I’m my own hardest critic,” said Allen, who was benched at points in 2016. “I just want to come in and make plays every day.” 

Defensively, the Ravens posted another commanding performance. The Browns’ first series ended with a three-and-out, the next with a stripped-sack fumble from Suggs and it didn’t get much better from there.

Baltimore’s defense forced five turnovers, including coming away with a crucial fourth-quarter interception in the end zone when safety Lardarius Webb picked off Browns starting quarterback DeShone Kizer. The Ravens led 24-10 at the time and so the takeaway gave them extra breathing room.

Through two weeks, the 2-0 Ravens have forced 10 turnovers.

“The thing is, we’ve got so much more that we can grow off of, and we can get so much better,” safety Tony Jefferson said. “That’s the scary part about it.” 

Kizer missed nearly a quarter’s worth of action with a migraine, leaving midway through the second quarter and eventually returned with 8:19 left in the third. In his absence, backup QB Kevin Hogan led the Browns to a five-play, 83-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter and helped set up a 38-yard field goal in the third.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, meanwhile, is still finding his timing with receivers. In general, Flacco had a better performance compared to Week 1 where he went 9-for-17 for 121 yards, finishing with 217 yards for two touchdowns and one interception.

Flacco, though, connected with his wide receivers for only five receptions for 38 yards. The majority of Flacco’s completions came from connections to his tight ends, checkdowns and on screens. Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson had 91 receiving yards on eight catches.

The Ravens quarterback did find wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in the end zone for the second week in a row. Harbaugh said the passing game is what made the difference for the Ravens. 

“I feel like one of the things I can do is stay pretty patient when I got out there and play, and today I definitely felt like it got the best of me a little bit,” Flacco said. “We had some guys running open.” 

Like last week, the Ravens offense went quiet in the second half, managing only three points. But with the game already in control, it didn’t matter.

The Ravens led in time of possession by nearly eight minutes. After rushing the ball 42 times in their season debut, Baltimore had another 32 carries against the Browns.

The Ravens might be predictable, but so far, it’s working. But with Yanda’s injury, combined with the 13 players already on injured reserve, they’ll be tested just how far they can go.

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