Final

Browns 16

(0-4, 0-2 away)

Ravens 23

(3-1, 3-0 home)

Coverage: NFL

8:20 PM ET, September 27, 2012

M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD 

1 2 3 4 T
CLE 0 7 3 616
BAL 0 9 14 023

Top Performers

Passing: J. Flacco (BAL) - 356 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: R. Rice (BAL) - 18 CAR, 49 YDS

Receiving: A. Boldin (BAL) - 9 REC, 131 YDS

Joe Flacco runs, passes for TDs as Ravens hold off Browns

Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- The regular NFL officials returned to action, and the ending of their first game was eerily familiar to the one that hastened the exit of the replacement refs.

This time, however, there were no replays or arguments at the end. Just another win by the Baltimore Ravens over the Cleveland Browns, 23-16 on Thursday night.

If not for two failed desperation passes into the end zone in the closing seconds, the returning officials might have had to work overtime on their first night back.

Cleveland began its final drive with 1:05 to go on its own 10. Rookie Brandon Weeden moved the Browns to the Baltimore 33 before a fourth-down pass into the end zone fell incomplete. But a personal foul penalty on Baltimore linebacker Paul Kruger gave winless Cleveland one more chance.

That pass sailed out of the end zone.

"Too much juice," Weeden lamented.

The final sequence was not unlike the controversial ending of Monday night's Green Bay-Seattle game, when a Hail Mary pass was ruled a touchdown. That play, and the furor it created, hastened negotiations that brought the regular officials back.

The lockout ended late Wednesday, bringing about the exit of the unpopular replacement refs. And so, finally, the tenured officials were in place for Week 4.

"I felt so bad for that Green Bay situation," Ravens running back Ray Rice said. "Replacement refs, their families, I can't knock them. The scrutiny they were under. That kind of scrutiny is bad. It's hard going from like Pop Warner to the big leagues."

As they walked onto the field hours before this game, the officiating crew received a round of applause and shouts of encouragement from fans in the lower sections. Head linesman Wayne Mackie and line judge Jeff Seeman both tipped their caps to acknowledge the support.

And then, before the pregame coin flip, referee Gene Steratore greeted the players at midfield by saying, "Good evening, men, it's good to be back."

Many in the sellout crowd of 70,944 stood and roared their approval.

Afterward, Ravens coach John Harbaugh echoed the sentiment of the crowd.

"Welcome back to the officials. Good to have them back," he said. "These guys are really good. The communication was good. I didn't agree with every call, but they were excellent."

Joe Flacco went 28-for-46 for 356 yards, threw one touchdown and ran for another. Yet, it wasn't until Cary Williams returned an interception 63 yards for a score at the end of the third quarter that the Ravens (3-1) put some distance between themselves and the young Browns (0-4).

"I thought our secondary made plays that had to be made, especially at the end there when they were knocking at the door," Harbaugh said. "Cary Wiliams was the difference in the game with the interception return for a touchdown."

The fans waited until the third quarter to boo the officials. On a 13-yard completion from Weeden to Benjamin Watson, Ravens safety Bernard Pollard was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit. The crowd jeered the call, but replays appeared to confirm the penalty.

The 15-yard markoff set up a 51-yard field goal by Phil Dawson that got the Browns within 16-10.

Late in the quarter, Williams ambushed an out pattern by Travis Benjamin and took the interception down the right sideline for a 13-point lead.

It was the 13th consecutive home win for the Ravens, the longest current run in the NFL, and their streak of 10 straight wins in the division is also the most of any team. Baltimore has also won nine straight over Cleveland.

The Ravens also became just the second team in NFL history to win on Thursday after winning the previous Sunday night (against the New England Patriots), joining the 2003 Miami Dolphins, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Anquan Boldin caught nine passes for 131 yards, and Torrey Smith had six catches for 97 yards and a score.

Weeden went 25-for-52 for 320 yards, but rookie running back Trent Richardson gained only 47 yards rushing on 14 carries. Dawson kicked field goals of 51, 50 and 52 yards, the last one with 4:33 left to make it 23-16.

It's the third time since 1998 that the Browns have lost their first four games. They finished 2-14 in 1999 and 5-11 in 2009.

Coach Pat Shurmur applauded the performance of the refs, and acknowledged he deserved an unsportsmanlike conduct call in the fourth quarter.

"I can't do that," he said. "It's an emotional game, and I got to make sure I keep my emotions in check."

Cleveland played the majority of the game without wide receiver and punt returner Josh Cribbs, who sustained a concussion while returning a kick late in the first quarter.

Cribbs had his helmet knocked off and lost the handle on the ball after absorbing a hard hit by Dannell Ellerbe. It was legal tackle, shoulder to helmet, and the officials did not call a penalty. Cribbs lay prone for several minutes before finally rising to his feet and walking off the field.

Flacco went 16-for-26 for 186 yards and a touchdown to stake the Ravens to 9-7 halftime lead.

NOTES: Former Browns and Ravens RB Jamal Lewis was inducted in Baltimore's Ring of Honor. … Cleveland safeties Tashaun Gipson and Usama Young both sustained knee injuries. … Dawson is the seventh player in NFL history to kick three FGs of at least 50 yards in a game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he's the first to kick all three in one half.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
CLE
BAL
1st Downs2023
Passing 1st downs
1716
Rushing 1st downs
15
1st downs from penalties
22
3rd down efficiency
3-155-15
4th down efficiency
0-10-1
Total Plays7077
Total Yards357438
Yards per play5.15.7
Total Drives1412
Passing314337
Comp-Att
25-5228-46
Yards per pass
5.96.7
Interceptions thrown
11
Sacks-Yards Lost
1-64-19
Rushing43101
Rushing Attempts
1727
Yards per rush
2.53.7
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-00-0
Penalties7-6611-100
Turnovers21
Fumbles lost
10
Interceptions thrown
11
Defensive / Special Teams TDs01
Possession26:5733:03

Passing Leaders

CLEC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Weeden25/523206.2011-6
BALC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Flacco28/463567.7114-19

Rushing Leaders

CLECARYDSAVGTDLG
Richardson14473.417
Benjamin100.000
BALCARYDSAVGTDLG
Rice18492.7010
Pierce6488.0021

Receiving Leaders

CLERECYDSAVGTDLG
Little47719.3043
Richardson45714.3020
BALRECYDSAVGTDLG
Boldin913114.6028
Smith69716.2134

Scoring Summary

SECOND QUARTERCLEBAL
balTD13:03Torrey Smith 18 Yard Pass From Joe Flacco (Justin Tucker Kick is No Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 85 yds, 2:53
06
balFG10:08Justin Tucker 45 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 7 plays, 32 yds, 1:58
09
cleTD2:37Trent Richardson 1 Yard Run (Phil Dawson Kick is Good)
Drive info: 11 plays, 94 yds, 4:52
79
THIRD QUARTERCLEBAL
balTD10:00Joe Flacco 1 Yard Run (Justin Tucker Kick is Good)
Drive info: 13 plays, 89 yds, 5:07
716
cleFG7:02Phil Dawson 51 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 53 yds, 3:01
1016
balTD0:27Cary Williams 63 Yard Interception Return (Justin Tucker Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 20 yds, 1:52
1023
FOURTH QUARTERCLEBAL
cleFG12:16Phil Dawson 50 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 48 yds, 3:04
1323
cleFG4:38Phil Dawson 52 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 5 plays, 12 yds, 1:35
1623

Research Notes

Joe Flacco picked apart the Browns defense on throws inside the numbers Thursday. Over the first three weeks of the season, the Browns had allowed 5.9 yards per attempt (third-lowest in the league) while opposing quarterbacks had a 55.9 completion percentage on such throws (lowest in the league).
  [+]
The Ravens targeted Anquan Boldin twice in the first half, completing one pass for six yards. In the second half Joe Flacco looked in Boldin's direction more often, completing 8-9 for 125 yards. The last time Boldin had eight receptions in a half was Week 11 of the 2008 season.
Brandon Weeden faced constant pressure from the Ravens Thursday night, seeing blitzes on 15 of his 51 pass attempts (29.4 percent; the average quarterback in the first three weeks faced a blitz on 11.9 percent of his attempts). Weeden faced only five blitzes combined in his first three career games.
  [+]
On Thursday night, Joe Flacco was 6-14 for 158 yards and a touchdown on throws of 15 yards or more. Flacco has now attempted 29 passes of that distance over his last two games, the most in any two-game span of his career.
  [+]
Joe Flacco picked apart the Browns defense on throws inside the numbers Thursday. Over the first three weeks of the season, the Browns had allowed 5.9 yards per attempt (third-lowest in the league) while opposing quarterbacks had a 55.9 completion percentage on such throws (lowest in the league).
  [+]
Phil Dawson has made three field goals of 50+ yards Thursday against the Ravens. He is the 7th kicker in NFL history with such a game ... The sixth since 2004. Prior to the 2004 season, Morten Andersen was the only kicker to make three 50-yarders. In addition, Dawson is the FIRST player with three 50-yard field goals in a HALF.
  [+]

ESPN Stats & Information