These are not your daddy’s Cleveland Browns!
Final score 26-24… It took everything the Ravens had to beat the Browns (7-8-1), who threatened to win on their final possession by driving to Baltimore’s 39-yard-line with 1:18 left to play. But with their season on the line, the Ravens’ No. 1-ranked defense iced the game by forcing Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield into four straight incompletions.
Mayfield’s final pass on fourth-and-10 was intercepted by Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley, who made a terrific play by anticipating the throw. M&T Bank Stadium erupted in joy, as a large group of Ravens’ players ran toward the opposite end zone to celebrate.
“It felt like it was in the air forever,” Mosley said of his interception.
After the game, John Harbaugh reflected on the resiliency it took for his team to win a division title.
“If you want to write a book about this season, probably no one would believe it,” Harbaugh said. “Not just this season, go back a year. Just a year ago we were in this exact same place and our guys fought through all of that. It wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t going to be something that was going to fall into our lap.
“This is the best team I’ve ever been associated with, 34 years in coaching, and even back to pee wee. The best bunch of guys who understand what it means to have each other’s backs, to fight through adversity.”
This is the fifth division title in Ravens history (2003, ’06, ’11, ’12, ‘18) and it appeared unlikely as recently as Week 11, when Baltimore had a 4-5 record and still trailed the Pittsburgh Steelers by 2 ½ games. However, the Ravens hit their stride after the bye, changing their offense dramatically when rookie Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback for an injured Joe Flacco.
The Ravens became the NFL’s best rushing team with Jackson under center, and Sunday’s victory was another example.
Baltimore rushed for a season-high 296 yards, Jackson rushed for two touchdowns, and backup running back Kenneth Dixon rushed for a career-high 117 yards on just 12 carries. Rolling to a 20-7 lead, Baltimore rushed for 179 yards in the first half, the fourth-highest rushing total for any half in team history.
“We’re one of the last 12 teams playing, and we’re going to do something great,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “This team’s kind of writing its own story.”
If you were watching Sunday night’s Ravens win thinking, “Here we go again,” as the Browns drove down the field to potentially kick a game-winning field goal that would knock Baltimore out of the playoffs, you weren’t alone.
“The last two years I’ve been here flashed before my eyes,” safety Eric Weddle said.
The Antonio Brown extension over the goal line on Christmas Day 2016. The Tyler Boyd 49-yard touchdown on fourth-and-12 on New Years Eve 2017. They were both absolutely gut wrenching.
Now the Ravens were right back in the same situation, staring a similar result in the face. But this time, they scripted a different ending.
C.J. Mosley intercepted Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield on fourth-and-10 with a spectacular play, reading a short pass over the middle. Mosley dropped into coverage, tipped the ball up and caught it himself.
“Right place at the right time,” Mosley said.
After two replays were ruled in favor of Cleveland, the Browns had first-and-10 at Baltimore’s 39-yard line with plenty of time left to get into position for a game-winning field goal. Cleveland was already in position for a 56-yarder. The Ravens couldn’t give an inch.
So what did Baltimore do? They stayed aggressive. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale dialed up four straight cover-zero, pedal-to-the-metal blitzes.
“It’s the way we’ve been all year,” Martindale said. “To win the game, we’re not playing some zone.”
“That’s unheard of,” Weddle said of all-out blitzes on four straight plays.
Last year, the Ravens dropped just about everyone in coverage and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton still found Boyd open in the middle of it all. The Ravens were going to be the one dictating the action this time around.
“We felt like as the game was going on, it was going to come down to that last series. Are we going to learn from our mistakes?” Weddle said. “That has been the driving force for us the entire season since this point last year. We got back in the same situation and we wanted to make the play.
“There was no way we were going to lose that game, not with what we’ve been through the last couple years, all the talk, the plays that we haven’t made. It’s been on our minds every day for the last year.”
“At the end of the day, we deserved it,” said Mosley. “All the things we’ve been through all year, the ups and downs of the season, the naysayers out there, all the people on social media that said I can’t cover… We’re in there. Like I always said, we just needed a chance to get in the playoffs. We’re in there, so let’s keep rolling.”
“Keep rolling” means the surprising Ravens host the Los Angeles Chargers and Phil Rivers next weekend in Baltimore. Should be a barn-burner…
|Passing 1st downs||16||6|
|Rushing 1st downs||1||16|
|1st downs from penalties||1||2|
|3rd down efficiency||4-11||3-13|
|4th down efficiency||0-1||1-1|
|Yards per Play||7.6||6.3|
|Yards per pass||9.0||6.4|
|Yards per rush||3.6||6.3|
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||1-2||1-4|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
The Lamar Jackson-led running attack was too much for Cleveland (7-8-1), which was denied its first winning season since 2007. After trailing 20-7 at halftime and 26-17 with 7:20 left, the Browns could not recover against the franchise that left Cleveland after the 1995 season.
Baker Mayfield threw three touchdown passes — including a 48-yarder to Landry — to finish with 27, an NFL record for a rookie.
“I’ll make sure I say something about it on the plane ride home,” interim coach Gregg Williams said. “Everybody needs a pat on the back, even where you’re as competitive as that young man. And he is competitive.”
Although Mayfield pierced the NFL’s top-ranked defense for 376 yards, he was intercepted three times.
“Obviously, very disappointed for us to not get the win, but it’s a great team. It’s a playoff team,” Mayfield said. “We want to be in their spot this time next year.”
Jackson gave Baltimore a 17-7 lead with touchdown runs of 25 yards and 8 yards , his first multi-score game in the NFL. Late in the first half, however, the former Louisville star lost a fumble when trying to reach over the goal line.
Jackson ran 20 times overall. As a passer, he went 14 of 24 for 179 yards.
“It’s exciting to watch him play. He’s a leader now,” said Ravens rookie Gus Edwards, who chipped in with 76 yards rushing.
INJURIES: Browns: DL Larry Ogunjobi was evaluated for a concussion and cleared to return in fourth quarter. … DB Damarious Randall missed time in the third quarter with cramps. Ravens: OL Alex Lewis missed a fourth straight game with a shoulder injury.