CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Browns sure know how to suck the life out of their fans.
Faced with a golden opportunity to prove that they are a team on the rise and actually belong in the AFC North, the Browns squandered it deflating them and their fans.
A slow start and lousy execution late cost the Browns any hope of building momentum before the bye week as they fell to the Baltimore Ravens 25-15 Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The loss dropped Cleveland to 2-7 on the season.
Despite falling behind 14-0 early, the Browns forced the Ravens to punt on 7 of their next 8 possessions and Phil Dawson kicked 5 field goals to take a 15-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
“For a while there, it looked like 5 might be enough,” Dawson said. “There will be times like last week where I don’t even try one and we win and I would gladly take that over the way we’re feeling right now.”
Flacco and the Ravens woke up in time to regain the lead on a 19-yard touchdown to Torrey Smith, who beat Joe Haden on the route, with 4:33 to play.
“When he broke inside I was coming down to make sure he didn’t get the first down,” Haden said. “He spun out on me. I took a bad angle and he made a really good move.”
Flacco then hit Anquan Boldin, who was wide open, for the 2-point conversion and a 22-15 lead.
The 9-play 81-yard drive was aided by a suspect roughing the passer penalty on T.J. Ward but in the end the Ravens executed and the Browns didn’t.
With plenty of time left and 2 timeouts plus the 2-minute warning, Browns coach Pat Shurmur elected to go for it on 4th-and-2 at his own 28. However, Brandon Weeden’s pass for Greg Little was incomplete.
“We went for it this time,” Shurmur said. “We wanted to get a first down. We got a play we liked, but didn’t execute it well. It’ll be a fun thing for you all to talk about. Had we converted it and moved forward, you would have talked about what a gutsy move it was.”
The Ravens took over and added a 43-yard field goal to put the game away.
Weeden completed 20 of 37 passes for 176 yards and 2 interceptions – the second one officially ended all hope as Ed Reed came away with yet another pick of a Browns QB late in the fourth quarter – in the loss.
“Some good, some bad,” Weeden said of his afternoon. “I made a few plays at times, but I missed throws I’d like to have back. That’s going to happen.”
Rookie running back Trent Richardson ran for 105 yards on 25 carries to join Earnest Byner (1984) & Bobby Mitchell (1958) as the only Browns rookies to rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games but settled for 3 instead of getting 7 4 times inside the red zone.
“It’s frustrating,” Richardson said. “But we can’t point fingers. We all have to be accountable for what we do. I’ve got to run harder. We gotta make better calls. We have to make sure we pick up blocks and catch the ball, and we have to do the right things.
“Once you’re in the red zone, you gotta score some kind of way.”
The Browns went 3-and out on their opening possession when they were unable to convert a 3rd and 1 thanks to Alex Smith dropping a swing pass from Weeden.
The Ravens wasted no time marching down the field and jumping in front. Ray Rice capped a 10-play 70-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run to put Baltimore in front 7-0.
Rice finished with 98 yards on 25 carries.
Bernard Pierce made it a 14-0 game with 1 second to play in the first quarter when he ran 12 yards virtually untouched for a touchdown to cap a 12-play 66-yard drive.
After being dominated in the first quarter, the Browns awoke from their slumber in the 2nd to put 3 scoring drives together – all capped by Phil Dawson field goals.
Dawson got the Browns on the board with 9:19 to play in the half with a 32-yard field goal which capped a 12-play 66 yard drive.
The Browns went 10 plays and 76 yards before his 28 yarder with 1:47 left in the first half.
Down 8, the defense forced Baltimore to go 3-and-out and the Browns drove 50 yards in 7 plays highlighted by Travis Benjamin’s sliding catch at the 11 to allow Dawson to kick a 29 yarder with 3 seconds to play and trim the deficit to 14-9 at the half.
Dawson improved to 17-17 on the season and 35 of 37 vs. Ravens for his career.
After being set up at their own 49, Weeden made 2 of the worst throws of his young career. The first was dropped by Reed. The second was picked by Ravens cornerback Cary Williams and returned 29 yards.
Weeden’s 11th interception of the season, which ended a streak of 209 offensive plays without a turnover, was intended for tight end Jordan Cameron but he didn’t even look for the ball or know it was coming his direction.
The Ravens ended up punting for the 5th straight time since opening the game with a pair of touchdowns.
Dawson capped another 10-play drive with a 33-yard field goal with 3:39 to play in the 3rd to make it a 14-12 game.
The Browns appeared to score a touchdown when Weeden found Josh Gordon for an 18 yard score but the Browns lined up illegally and Dawson had to boot his 5th field goal – a 41-yard kick – to put the Browns on top, 15-14.
The lead didn’t last long.
“You start getting threes instead of sevens when you make your way down there, the outcome is much, much different,” Shurmur said. “When we did score, we were lined up improperly. There was some sloppiness in there. Of course, I’ll take responsibility for that.”
The Ravens won their 11th straight within the AFC North, 10th straight over the Browns and John Harbaugh improved to 5-0 after a bye.