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Lamar Jackson, rookies lead rout of Cleveland Browns

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens put together the most dominant regular season in franchise history in 2019, leading the NFL in both points (33.2) and offensive yards (407.6) per game en route to a 14-2 record.

And on Sunday, they kicked off the 2020 season with more of the same.

With another dazzling performance from reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, the Ravens cruised to a 38-6 win over the Cleveland Browns in their season opener at M&T Bank Stadium — a game that, like many across the league, was played behind closed doors due to restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

With the victory, the Ravens improved to 21-4 against the Browns since John Harbaugh took over as Baltimore’s coach in 2008.

Here are three takeaways from the Ravens’ Week 1 win.

1. Rookies shine for Ravens: The familiar faces had strong days for Baltimore, from Jackson’s three touchdown passes to tight end Mark Andrews’ one-handed grab in the end zone to Marlon Humphrey hauling in an interception. But the Ravens’ top two draft picks also showed up in big ways in their NFL debuts, each adding a valuable new wrinkle.

On defense, linebacker Patrick Queen — the No. 28 overall pick in April’s draft — had a tremendous day. He led the team with eight total tackles, one sack and a forced fumble, looking both disruptive and savvy in his first NFL game. Meanwhile, on offense, Ohio State product J.K. Dobbins ran for 22 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries. His role in the offense will likely only grow as the season progresses.

2. Tough opener for Odell: If there was a singular momentum-shifting play in Sunday’s game, it was probably late in the second quarter, on a third-and-2 in Baltimore territory. With the Browns trailing 17-6, Baker Mayfield flipped the ball to star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for what appeared to be an easy conversion — and Beckham dropped it. Kicker Austin Seibert then proceeded to miss a field goal, and the Ravens quickly marched downfield and scored to take a 24-6 lead into halftime.

This Browns loss hardly falls on Beckham’s shoulders alone, but it marked yet another game in which the three-time Pro Bowl wideout was rendered ineffective and visibly frustrated. He was targeted 10 times in the game but finished with only three catches for 22 yards. In his 17 games with the Browns to date, dating back to the start of 2019, Beckham has registered two 100-yard receiving games; On six occasions, he has failed to exceed five catches or 50 receiving yards in a game.

3. An eerie atmosphere: The overall vibe of Sunday’s game was, as one would expect, quite strange. There were no fans, but the Ravens still played their pre-game hype video and let players run out of the tunnel amid manufactured smoke. They still had a socially-distanced drumline on the Browns’ sideline, jamming during timeouts, and a few staffers waving flags at big moments. Their touchdowns were punctuated by the inflation of dancing air tubes behind each end zone — the kind of thing you’d see in front of a car dealership. And behind the glass windows of the press box, it sounded almost silent. In other words, it felt like the antithesis of a normal fall Sunday. But on the field, it was NFL football all the same.

Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.



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