Sunday, December 26, 2010
Rapid Reaction: Ravens 20, Browns 10
By James Walker
CLEVELAND -- Here are some early thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' victory over the Cleveland Browns.
What it means: Baltimore (11-4) clinches a playoff berth and continues to put pressure on the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4), who lead the AFC North via tiebreaker (better division record). The Steelers have to beat the Browns next week, or a loss by the Ravens can give the division title and a first-round bye to Pittsburgh. For the Browns (5-10), it's their third straight defeat and guarantees Cleveland's seventh double-digit losing season in the past eight years.
What I liked: The Ravens were the more physical team on both sides of the ball. They stuffed Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis (35 rushing yards) and gained 161 yards on the ground. Baltimore's defense also forced four turnovers, which made the difference. Ravens safety Ed Reed had two interceptions. For Cleveland, rookie cornerback Joe Haden had another solid game (five tackles, one interception and a sack).
What I didn't like: There were several questionable decisions made by Cleveland's coaching staff that put this game out of reach. The clock management at the end of the second quarter was awful for the second straight week and cost the Browns a chance at a touchdown. Cleveland also started the second half with a failed onside kick that quickly led to a Ravens touchdown and 10-point lead. It was a desperate move that didn’t work. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy also looked like a rookie. He threw for 149 yards and looked confused with three interceptions against a good Ravens defense.
What's next: The AFC North will have a pair of division games to end the season. The Ravens will host the Cincinnati Bengals and the Steelers will travel to play the Browns. Both games have heavy playoff implications with the division title still up for grabs in the final week.