Ravens clinch top AFC seed with win over Browns

Ravens clinch top AFC seed with win over Browns

Ravens

Ravens clinch top AFC seed with win over Browns

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Methodical, patient, predatory waiting game… that’s my impression of how the Ravens seemed to approach their eventual TKO defeat of the pesky Browns.

Lamar Jackson threw three touchdown passes — two to tight end Mark Andrews late in the first half — and rushed for 103 yards as the Ravens clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs for the first time with their 11th straight win, 31-15 over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday to lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“It feels good,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “The players deserve a tremendous amount of credit for it. It’s hard to win any game in the NFL. When you put together this kind of season, it’s quite an accomplishment.”

The Ravens (13-2) shook off a sluggish start and avenged their last loss, a 40-25 stinker to the Browns on Sept. 29.

The Ravens did suffer an injury that could hurt their playoff hopes as running back Mark Ingram went down without being touched in the fourth quarter. Ingram immediately grabbed his lower left leg and collapsed when he tried to stand. Ingram, who went over 1,000 yards rushing in the second quarter and caught a 12-yard TD pass from Jackson in the third, was able to walk to the sideline to be evaluated before limping to the locker room.

Harbaugh said Ingram did not suffer any structural damage, but he’ll undergo more testing Monday.

The Browns (6-9) were officially eliminated from the postseason, and now first-year coach Freddie Kitchens may be down to his last game. Kitchens has appeared overwhelmed at times and the home finale was a microcosm of this disappointing season as the Browns underperformed and will miss the playoffs for the 17th straight season.

Baker Mayfield threw a 3-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter to Odell Beckham Jr., whose acquisition by the Browns in March sent expectations soaring.

In the closing minutes, Beckham flung his helmet on the sideline in frustration and exchanged words with Kitchens.

Mayfield, who finished 20 of 33 for 192 yards with two TDs and a pick, said it’s not all Kitchens’ fault that Cleveland’s season soured.

“Any time you have a head coach and you have a losing record, that’s the first person everybody points to,” he said. “But it goes to many more things than just Freddie. We can all be better in this process and I think that’s what it comes down to, there’s no one single thing to blame. It’s just overall, we all have to bring it more and more every day to meet the expectations we set for ourselves.”

Outplayed and getting in their own way for most of the first half, the Ravens scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes to take a 14-6 lead at the break.

Jackson connected on a 39-yard TD pass to Andrews with 1:18 for Baltimore’s first score, and then hooked up with his tight end again on a sensational play the electrifying QB can add to his MVP candidacy.

Jackson stayed alive in the pocket long enough to buy time and fired an off-balance pass to the back of the end zone, where Andrews made a terrific leaping catch.

Baltimore had been unable to do anything on its first four possessions and the Browns appeared on their way to a surprising halftime lead. However, Kitchens made another head-scratching play call on third-and-1 when he had Mayfield pitch the ball to Kareem Hunt, who looked like he was going to throw it before being brought down for an 8-yard loss.

“We had opportunities to make plays and we just didn’t do it,” said Kitchens, adding he was prepared to go for it on fourth down if Hunt had just thrown an incompletion.

The Ravens hurt themselves with some uncharacteristic mistakes to set up Cleveland’s first touchdown after Jackson’s fumble near mid-field.

Baltimore’s defense committed two penalties on fourth down to extend the Browns’ drive and cornerback Jimmy Smith was called for pass interference in the end zone, giving Cleveland first-and-goal at the 1. On the next play, Mayfield rolled to his right and hit tight end Demetrius Harris.

INJURIES :

Ravens: Harbaugh said Ingram’s calf was cramping. He’s got 1,018 yards on 202 carries.

Browns: RB Dontrell Hilliard suffered a left knee injury on a hard hit in the first half and did not return. Hilliard caught a short pass and was hit by Ravens CB Marcus Peters, who was also shaken up but stayed in. Hilliard left the stadium on crutches and his leg immobilized.

A telling take from the honorable John Eisenberg, long-time expert reporter on the Ravens:

“If anything, this game presented an opportunity for the Ravens’ defense to demonstrate how far it has come since its early-season struggles. Those culminated with an ugly loss to the Browns that convinced Baltimore’s front office to make a flurry of personnel moves. Between the additions of those new players and the returns of Brandon Williams and Jimmy Smith, who missed the first game due to injury, the defense was far more formidable Sunday. Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, who rushed for 165 yards in the first game, was a non-factor in the rematch (45 yards on 15 carries). Mayfield passed for 150 fewer yards. In the beginning, the personnel changes were all about finding a way to stop the run, a must for any Baltimore defense. Chubb’s rough Sunday indicates that mission was accomplished. The pass defense also is markedly tighter with Smith back and healthy alongside Marlon Humphrey, Thomas, etc. The Browns’ receivers made some plays Sunday, but as usual, nothing in the air really hurt the Ravens. That’s how you win in today’s NFL.”

Matchup
1st Downs 31 17
Passing 1st downs 13 10
Rushing 1st downs 16 2
1st downs from penalties 2 5
3rd down efficiency 7-11 3-12
4th down efficiency 0-1 0-0
Total Plays 71 53
Total Yards 481 241
Total Drives 10 10
Yards per Play 6.8 4.5
Passing 238 192
Comp-Att 20-31 20-33
Yards per pass 7.7 5.8
Interceptions thrown 0 1
Sacks-Yards Lost 0-0 0-0
Rushing 243 49
Rushing Attempts 40 20
Yards per rush 6.1 2.5
Red Zone (Made-Att) 3-4 2-2
Penalties 7-50 7-62
Turnovers 1 1
Fumbles lost 1 0
Interceptions thrown 0 1
Defensive / Special Teams TDs 0 0
Possession 34:19 25:41

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