Josh Gordon only had one catch for the Cleveland Browns when they met the Ravens for the first time. Sunday, when the AFC North foes rematch in Cleveland, the receiver will play a far more vital role.
So will Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who was serving a suspension from the NFL for taking a banned substance when they lost 23-16 on Sept. 27 in Baltimore.
That meeting represents the last solid performance for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw for 356 yards. He has averaged less than 190 yards passing per game in his last three outings since then.
Having Haden there gives Cleveland more options if Flacco starts to find a groove, though that's no guarantee considering how inconsistent the Ravens' offense has been away from home.
Flacco opened the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith in the second quarter of that first game. While Smith is the big-play deep threat in Baltimore, it was Anquan Boldin who gave the Browns fits. He had nine catches for a season-high 131 yards in that game.
"We play a mixture of coverages," Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said. "We'll play zone and man, and we pressure in different ways. You can't always just match Joe up, but if there is a receiver that we feel like warrants being matched, then of course we have the ability to do it."
Gordon, an undrafted rookie, had one catch for 16 yards and was easily forgettable. But he now leads the the Browns with 17 catches for a team-high 379 yards and four touchdowns. Gordon's totals tops all NFL rookies.
Injuries to key players and too many dropped passes by Cleveland's receivers has pushed him into the rotation. He has been referred to as "the kid from Baylor" several times this week because even the Ravens have trouble remembering his name. The Browns have won two of their last three games after opening the season 0-5.
"Their receivers are getting better. The kid from Baylor is really improving and is becoming a big-play threat for them," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They’re just a good, young team, and they’re on the rise.”