Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins nailed a 41-yard field goal as time expired Sunday, sealing a Ravens collapse in a 33-31 loss in Baltimore.
Cleveland (6-3) scored 24 of the game’s final 31 points to hand the AFC North-leading Ravens (7-3) a stunning loss. The Ravens had a chance to put the game away late in the fourth quarter but, leading by one, they punted after just one first down on their final possession. That set the stage for Cleveland, which rolled nearly five minutes off the clock as it completed its 12-play, 58-yard march.
The Ravens squandered a chance to go atop the AFC. Their lead in the AFC North fell to a half-game over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Browns. They face the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night, a short turnaround after a game in which the team suffered several injuries, including to left tackle Ronnie Stanley and cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson went 13-for-23 for 223 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He added 41 yards for the running game, which thrived early but was largely kept under wraps after the first quarter. Wide receiver Zay Flowers had five catches for 73 yards, and Odell Beckham Jr. had a 40-yard catch-and-run score in the third quarter.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson, making his first start in Baltimore as a Brown, went 20-for-34 for 213 yards, a touchdown and an interception, taking advantage of a Ravens secondary that lost Humphrey to an ankle injury midway through the third quarter.
The Ravens took a seemingly comfortable 31-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, with running back Gus Edwards’ 1-yard touchdown capitalizing on a botched punt catch by former Ravens wide receiver James Proche.
But Cleveland and Watson needed less than three minutes to answer with a 10-yard touchdown to wide receiver Elijah Moore. Forty seconds later, Jackson had a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by cornerback Greg Newsome II, who returned it 34 yards for a touchdown. Only a missed extra point kept the Browns from evening the score at 31.
The game had all the early markings of a Ravens blowout. Safety Kyle Hamilton had a pick six on quarterback Deshaun Watson’s first pass, tipping the ball at the line of scrimmage to himself and returning it 18 yards. Four minutes later, running back Keaton Mitchell gave the Ravens a 14-0 lead on a 39-yard touchdown.
But the Browns answered with three short-range field goals, one of them set up by an interception of Jackson, and entered halftime trailing only 17-9.
For a team praised for its depth and execution, the Ravens sure do find themselves falling short in a lot of fourth quarters (and later).
In Week 3, they couldn’t put away the Colts despite Indianapolis’ repeated efforts to hand them victory. Two weeks later, the offense and defense folded up shop early in a 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And on Sunday the Ravens couldn’t hold a 14-point fourth-quarter lead against a team missing stars in its secondary and not showing much pop on offense.
This has been the point in previous Ravens seasons when things have gone south. With injuries mounting Sunday and the Cincinnati Bengals arriving in Baltimore on Thursday, this could get worse before it gets better.
— Jonas Shaffer, Ravens reporter
This game was supposed to be a defensive showdown. Granted, there were some highlight-reel moments, with seven sacks and three interceptions between the teams. But, with an over/under of 38 points, how could one expect these teams would almost double that number?
There were some uncharacteristic holes in the defensive performances. The Ravens came into the game with a league-best 4.6 yards allowed per catch. The Browns were right behind them with 5.4 yards allowed. This game, the Ravens averaged 7.7 through the air, and the Browns averaged 5. The run defense was closer to the norm, but the Browns had allowed 3.7 yards per carry up to this point and the Ravens had allowed 4. Sunday, the Ravens rushed for 4.4 yards and the Browns for 4.9.
This whole season, the question has been about the Ravens’ offense. It looks unstoppable, as it did at the start of the game, and then it looks mediocre, as it did at the end. But now I have questions about the defense, too.
— Giana Han, Ravens reporter
Serious questions arise about Ravens’ ambitions
Something happened Sunday that we haven’t seen almost at all this season. The Ravens got pushed around in a loss. On offense, they were often overwhelmed by Cleveland’s pass rush, their run game was too often bottled up, and Lamar Jackson looked more frantic than he has thus far. On defense, the Browns ran the ball exceptionally well and Deshaun Watson slipped out of the Ravens’ grasp time after time.
When you add some scary-looking injuries to Marlon Humphrey and Ronnie Stanley, the cost of Sunday’s game was especially rough with another important division game against Cincinnati set for Thursday. It was a brutal reminder never to underestimate the AFC North, the toughest division in football. And it was the most vulnerable the Ravens have looked all season.
— Kyle Goon, columnist
Lacking a go-to player
This is the deepest group of weapons Lamar Jackson has played with in his career. He has done a great job sharing the wealth, divvying out his targets incredibly evenly among numerous pass catchers. At its best, Todd Monken’s offense looks unstoppably multiple.
But when the Ravens really, really needed a long, clock-eating scoring drive to salt away the win, Jackson didn’t know who to go to. Zay Flowers went untargeted for more than a quarter. Odell Beckham Jr. was invisible save for his third-quarter touchdown. Mark Andrews, Jackson’s time-tested crutch, did not have a catch in the fourth quarter.
The running game bears responsibility as well. But Jackson and the Ravens’ weapons failed to deliver when it mattered most.
— Paul Mancano, audience engagement editor
Welp, that wasn’t great
Jonas wrote about it during the week. This season, for all its quirks, has not given us much to go on when evaluating how the Ravens deal with pressure. They entered the game having trailed for less than half an hour.
Well, now we at least have this much. On Sunday, the Ravens took an early lead and then slowly and painfully squandered it. Losing Marlon Humphrey was undoubtedly a blow — he’s an important leader — but the offense’s inability to come up with clutch plays is more concerning than the struggles of the defense.
As promising as the revised scheme has been, Lamar Jackson and all his weapons have simply failed to make the sort of big plays that can wrest control of a close game.
Talking heads have hyped the Ravens for weeks now, while fans remained cautious. With good reason, it turns out. The Ravens still have much to prove and potentially another hole in the secondary to fill.
But the NFL season is a long slog. The victories go to teams that persevere — and, often, the ones who have good injury luck. We’ll have to wait to see about the Ravens, on both accounts.
— Chris Korman, editor