Browns Vs. Ravens: AFC North Defensive Battle Won By Baltimore Despite Cleveland's Last-Second Drive

Larry French - Getty Images

The Ravens topped visiting Cleveland 23-16 on the speed of a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ravens CB Cary Williams.

It was the defensive battle most would come to expect from an AFC North primetime matchup.

Battling a difficult crowd in on a field in which the team in purple rarely loses, Cleveland rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden maintained composure like a veteran. Trailing 9-0, his team's offensive gains were more easily measured in inches instead of yards. His rival quarterback, Baltimore's Joe Flacco, was drilling deep outs and posts, looking like he was well on his way to another big prime time performance.

Baltimore, on paper, is the superior team, and it certainly looked that way through the first quarter. The fact it didn't get worse than 23-10 potentially shows a narrowing gap in the AFC North.

The Browns leaned on their underrated defensive unit and its six sacks of Flacco, hoping their rookie passer, Weeden, wouldn't wilt. Not fully, anyway.

Down 16-10, Weeden reverted to the rookie form that highlighted his previous three games, and saw his pass intended for Travis Benjamin get jumped by cornerback Cary Williams, who returned it 63 yards for what turned out to be the game-winner for the Ravens.

The Browns didn't allow a touchdown after Flacco scored from a yard out in the third quarter, and held the Ravens off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.

Cleveland had the ball down 23-16 late in the game, kicking to Baltimore after a Phil Dawson 51-yard field goal. In a time the Ravens offense could have sealed it. Unable to resist the urge to throw deep, the Ravens were able to draw a defensive holding penalty on safety Buster Skrine on a pass intended for Jacoby Jones, and connected on a deep ball to Anquan Boldin.

They also picked up a holding penalty, and eventually ran twice to Ray Rice for two yards and one yard, respectively, then Flacco kept it for three yards, bringing out the punt team.

Pinned at his own 10-yard line with 1:05 remaining on the clock, Weeden wound up down at Baltimore's 18 with 10 seconds remaining. Weeden's final pass to Greg Little fell incomplete, just like the comeback bid.

Both defenses made running the ball consistently next to impossible. Rice entered the game averaging 89 yards per contest, and was held to 48 on 18 carries, failing to reach the end zone. Rookie Trent Richardson ran 14 times for just 47 yards with a long of seven.


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