Harbaugh: 'We cannot run the ball right now'
CLEVELAND - Final score: Browns 24, Ravens 18
Game recap: This game was a microcosm of the Ravens’ season. They fell behind early. Their running game was futile. They made a huge mistake on special teams. And they lost another close game. At 3-5, the Ravens are sinking fast, having lost three straight, and four of their last five.
The win ended Cleveland’s losing streak against the Ravens, which was 11 games, dating back to 2007. So much for quarterback Joe Flacco and coach John Harbaugh never losing to the Browns.
An 80-yard drive by the Browns (4-5) gave them an early 7-0 lead, and they eventually built a 14-3 game, as quarterback Jason Campbell enjoyed an excellent game. The Browns should have led by more than 14-10 at halftime, but a mistake in the Browns’ secondary left Torrey Smith wide open for a 46-yard pass from Joe Flacco , followed by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Marlon Brown.
However, a fumbled punt return by Tandon Doss in the third quarter gave the Browns a first-and-10 and the Ravens'. Two plays later, Campbell hit wide open backup tight end Gary Barnbridge for a four-yard TD pass that gave the Browns 21-10 lead.
The Ravens answered with a seven-yard TD pass from Flacco to Brown, followed by Flacco to Brown for a two-point conversion. That made the score 21-18 Browns, but the Ravens could not get over the hump, as the Browns iced the game by burning the clock with a long final drive that led to a Billy Cundiff field goal with 14 seconds to play.
Turning point: At 3-5, the Ravens are sinking fast, having lost three straight, and four of their last five. Doss’ muffed punt return.
At that point, the Ravens had momentum, trailing just 14-10, and forcing the Browns to punt with about six minutes left in the third quarter. But Doss, who has an unusual way of catching punts with his hands, let the ball slip through his hands. Eric Martin recovered for the Browns at the Ravens’ 11-yard line, setting up the touchdown that put the Browns ahead. 21-10. The Ravens’ offense just isn’t good enough to overcome momentum swings like that.
Ravens players of game
Offense: Marlon Brown, WR
Brown (five catches, 54 yards) had both Ravens’ touchdowns, and he already has five touchdowns this season. His knack for getting open in the red zone has been a pleasant surprise for an undrafted free agent. Expect Flacco to keep looking for Brown in crucial situations.
Defense: Daryl Smith, LB
Even though he was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty, Smith played another solid game, had a sack on a blitz, and continued to be a leader on a defensive unit that has to play well for the Ravens to have any chance.
Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith left the game in the second half with an undisclosed injury. His status for next week has yet to be determined. If he misses time, it will hurt the Ravens’ secondary. He has been their most consistent corner this season.
They said it:
Harbaugh on playoff chances: "It's going to be a challenge. We're 3-5. Math says it's going to be a challenge. You can't make the kind of mistakes that create opportunities for your opponent. We've done way to much of that."
Flacco: "It's obviously frustrating. We just haven't been good enough. You got to be positive. You go to keep your head and your eyes forward. Stare it right in the face. We've made it tough for ourselves."
A.Q Shipley on struggles in run game: "As an offense lineman, you want to run the football. It's just not happening right now. I'm not really sure what the problem is. We go back to the drawing board every week. We think we have it figured out. Nothing's really making any progress."