The Ravens and Browns met on a cold Cleveland night for a game that had the potential to shift the tide of their seasons. All the elements of a classic AFC North December showdown were present for this one, the one exception being that the Browns actually had something to play for in December. Let’s relive this barn burner.
The Ravens kicked off to start, which usually is an indicator of a win for them. The first drive did not indicate that, though, as the Browns were able to punch it in for six on a seven yard run by Nick Chubb.
The Ravens defense did make some big plays on the drive, with Pernell McPhee delivering two big blows on Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry as they threw the ball a few plays apart.
Marlon Humphrey also racked up his seventh forced fumble of the year—three shy of the NFL single season record—followed by Marcus Peters forcing another a play later.
The Ravens’ first play from scrimmage was creative, but disappointing, as a flea flicker play resulted in a sack of Lamar Jackson. Lamar must have taken offense to this, as he proceeded to push the team down into the end zone with 31 yards on 4 scrambles that had that will-breaking look of past seasons.
With just over three minutes left in the first quarter, the game was tied at seven apiece.
The following Cleveland possession yet again featured a Ravens defense making plays, but failing to stop the Browns from moving down the field. Harrison Bryant drew a pass interference penalty on Chuck Clark on the second play. The very next play, Matt Judon was hit with a suspect roughing the passer call that he was not happy about. Then, after Baltimore stopped Cleveland in three more plays, they were yet again hit with a very ticky-tack interference penalty on Jimmy Smith to give the Browns their third first down by penalty on the drive.
Finally, the defense was able to stop the Browns and force a field goal attempt. As they say, “the ball does not lie,” and karma came back around as Cody Parkey pushed the kick wide to keep the game tied at seven.
The Ravens unfortunately were not able to turn their good fortune into anything positive, instead moving backwards nine yards after consecutive sacks of Jackson before punting it back to the Browns.
The next defensive stand for the Ravens started off with yet another penalty, this one on Marcus Peters. Luckily, though, they were still able to get off the field three plays later to give the ball back to the offense.
When the Ravens came back out for their third possession, they got right back to their ground game and pounded Cleveland on seven of their eight plays to finish with a Gus Edwards score.
Jackson racked up 30 yards on the ground and Dobbins added 25 more to combine with Edwards’ 15.
The defense seemed ready to make another stop on the next drive, nearly ending it when Marlon Humphrey forced his eighth fumble of the season, which was recovered by Cleveland for a first down. A 37-yard strike to rookie receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones down the right sideline made matters even worse, and two plays later, a perfectly blocked play opened up a 14 yard touchdown run by Nick Chubb, his second of the game.
With 4:16 left in the half, the game was tied again, this time at 14.
The fourth Ravens’ possession was a dreadful one, as Lamar’s balance problems on the FirstEnergy Stadium turf continued and he slipped twice on the same play to lose 11 and effectively end the drive there. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman likely did not trust his quarterback to stay on his feet, and two mediocre run plays later the offense was walking back off the field.
The defense was able to give the ball back to the offense with a minute left in the half to work, thanks in no small part to an offensive pass interference on Peoples-Jones, followed by an intentional grounding penalty on Baker Mayfield on third down.
The final Baltimore possession of the half started out looking very scary for Ravens fans with two consecutive passes ricocheting off the hands of Marquise Brown to set up a 3rd & 10. Lamar nearly took another sack to kill the drive, but in the way that only he can, he rolled away from it, got his eyes back up field and floated one over the Browns defenders to Mark Andrews for a 39-yard catch and run.
On the very next play, Lamar pulled the ball down and trotted to the end zone for six more points and his second rushing touchdown of the half.
The Ravens went into halftime with a 21-14 lead.
The Ravens came back out of the half right where they left off, pounding the ball ruthlessly. On 3rd & 3, Jackson, new cleats and all, badly fooled star defensive end Myles Garrett on a read option run and gashed Cleveland for 44 yards before being dragged down.
The next play saw Gus the Bus rev up his engine for another touchdown, this one a 19 yard sprint that looked like a backbreaker for the Cleveland defense.
The first Browns possession of the half was a long one, lasting 11 plays and taking three and a half minutes off the clock on their way to a third rushing touchdown, this time courtesy of Kareem Hunt. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Cody Parkey missed another kick to keep them down by eight points.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, Cody Parkey missed another kick to keep them down by eight points.
The defense put up a decent fight, but Cleveland was able to get LJ Fort matched up on Hunt for a 27 yard bomb down the left sideline that put them on the doorstep of the end zone.
Jackson and the offense got the ball back and fought hard to make their way onto the opponents’ side of the field, but fizzled out when Jackson airmailed two deep passes to Willie Snead IV and Mark Andrews on consecutive plays.
The defense was finally able to cash in on a turnover opportunity on Cleveland’s first play, as Tyus Bowser dropped right into a passing lane and nearly turned it into six before being tackled just short of the goal line. This was his third straight game with an interception and he now ties Marcus Peters for the team lead this season.
JK Dobbins walked into the end zone on the following play and the energy was ironically sucked right out of the stadium. Sadly, Cleveland was able to block the point after attempt to get back the point they threw away on their own missed extra point.
The Browns got the ball back and went on a methodical eight-play drive that soaked up over four minutes of game time and ended with a Rashard Higgins touchdown catch on fourth down after Marcus Peters got tangled up and tripped on the route. This was the first receiving touchdown of the day, preceded by eight rushing touchdowns. The Browns decided to go for the two point conversion and got it on a fluke tipped ball that landed in the hands of Peoples-Jones.
During these last plays, disaster struck the Ravens. Lamar Jackson came down with a case of the cramps and the team was forced to send out Trace McSorely in his stead. This almost turned out to be okay, as it appeared McSorely had connected on a third down conversion to Marquise Brown, who instead tallied his third drop of the day amidst a tumultuous season for the second year receiver.
The Browns got the ball and started rolling, attacking the Ravens on the ground and targeting Davontae Harris on the sideline. Marcus Peters came out of the game with the injury he sustained on the previous drive, which, coupled with the loss of Jimmy Smith earlier, put the Ravens right back into dire straits with their secondary. They also had no answer for the run game, and Baker Mayfield slid in to the end zone for a scramble touchdown after Chubb gouged his way down to the red zone. Baltimore had failed to come home on the pass rush all game, allowing runs just like this, and this time it bit them.
Cody Parker converted the extra point to give the Browns their first lead since the first quarter.
The Trace McSorely-led offense came back out onto the field as Lamar continued to battle his cramps. After two plays that went nowhere, McSorely hooked up with Snead for a 13 yard first down conversion. The Running game then took the Ravens down the field all the way to the Cleveland 41, before McSorely went down with a knee injury on a busted option play that pushed them back to the 45.
Just in time, Lamar came running out of the locker room to attempt the fourth down. He dropped back, started to roll right, and miraculously found Marquise Brown down field for a 44-yard touchdown to take the lead. On the next snap, Dobbins bullied his way across the goal line for a two point conversion to give the Ravens a full seven-point lead.
Cleveland did not back down from the pressure, hammering down the left sideline in the passing game and hitting Kareem Hunt for a 22-yard touchdown. It took them four plays to go 75 yards.
Lamar walked back onto the field with 1:04 left in the game and one timeout. He quickly went to work, hitting Mark Andrews for a 14 yard gain. Instead if spiking the ball, they snapped it again and again Mark Andrews went for 14. After a Baltimore timeout, Jackson hit Snead for six more yards, and then quickly again went to Andrews for three more before finally spiking the ball. Justin Tucker came, saw, and conquered a 55-yard deadeye kick to send his team home with a win.
It’s easy to say it was never in doubt, but this game was about as unpredictable as it gets.
The win helps Baltimore alot more than it hurts Cleveland, who still own the AFC’s fifth seed with a tiebreaker over Indianapolis. Still, this was a big morale game for Cleveland, and losing it has to really hurt the psyche of the fans and possibly some players.
The Ravens still have to handle their business going forward, but this could be a marquee win if the end of the season goes according to plan. If nothing else, it may be the game of the season for the NFL and it was one hell of a ride.