Saturday, December 24, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Ravens 20, Browns 14
By Jamison Hensley
BALTIMORE -- Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 20-14 win over the Cleveland Browns:
What it means: Even though they struggled to put away the Browns in the second half, the Ravens (11-4) move on step closer to the AFC North title, a home playoff game and a first-round bye. Baltimore can clinch all of that with a win at Cincinnati next Sunday. The Ravens went undefeated at home for the first time in team history and won for the 10th straight time at M&T Bank Stadium. The Browns (4-11) lost for eighth time in nine games, including five in a row.
Dumb penalty: The Browns made some inexcusable mistakes in this game but none more than the one with two minutes remaining. On fourth-and-2, the Ravens lined up obviously looking to get the Browns to jump offside -- and rookie nose tackle Phil Taylor did. Taylor grabbed his helmet in disbelief, but it allowed the Ravens to run out the final minutes of the game.
Return problems: Josh Cribbs broke the Browns' shutout in the third quarter when he returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown. It was the third touchdown allowed by the Ravens special teams this year (two on punt and one on kickoff). This is the first time that Baltimore has allowed multiple touchdowns on punt returns since 2002. Cribbs has 11 touchdowns off returns, but this was the longest of his career.
Bad decision: Down 17-0, the Browns made a head-scratcher of a decision to end the first half. On second-and-goal at the 3-yard line, the Browns chose to run the ball in the final seconds without any timeouts. Peyton Hillis was stopped for no gain with about five seconds remaining, and Cleveland went into halftime without any points. It was just a poor decision by coach Pat Shurmur, who should have either thrown the ball in that situation or kicked the field goal.
Can't cover: It was a rough first half for Cleveland linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. He allowed both touchdowns in pass coverage -- a 5-yarder on a back-shoulder throw to Ed Dickson and a 42-yarder to Ray Rice on a wheel route.
Showing strong leg: Shayne Graham more than filled in for Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff, converting from 48 and 43 yards. Cundiff was inactive because of a left calf injury. It will be interesting how the Ravens handle the kicking situation next Sunday.
What's next: The Ravens end the regular season at the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns close it out by hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers.