Browns end 11-game skid vs. Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens don’t scare anyone anymore. They don’t have the same defense, firepower or swagger.
The defending Super Bowl champions are wobbling.
Jason Campbell threw three touchdown passes — two to Davone Bess — and the Browns ended an 11-game losing streak against Baltimore, beating the Ravens 24-18 on Sunday.
Campbell’s 3-yard pass to Bess on fourth down with three minutes left helped the Browns (4-5) seal their first win over Baltimore since 2007, a string that started when quarterback Joe Flacco and coach John Harbaugh began with the Ravens.
Just one week into November, the Ravens (3-5) are just one game ahead of last-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North, which has been flipped on its head by Ohio’s two NFL teams.
As they dressed following the game, Baltimore’s players seemed dazed by their new position.
”I think we have good players,” Harbaugh said. ”I know our players are good enough to win these games. There’s no doubt about it. We just have to play better.”
The Ravens have lost three straight, four of five and for the first time in six tries they failed to win under Harbaugh in the week after a bye.
Baltimore is befuddled.
Flacco had a pair of TD passes to rookie Marlon Brown, but the Super Bowl MVP couldn’t rally the Ravens, who made too many mistakes and, if they don’t fix things quickly, could miss the playoffs.
”It’s obviously frustrating,” Flacco said. ”We just haven’t been good enough. It’s not easy on Sundays when you’re going out there and it’s tough sledding and you’re not getting the job done.”
Making his second straight start after Brandon Weeden was benched, Campbell shook off a rib injury and completed 23 of 35 passes for 262 yards. The nine-year veteran was at his best in the closing minutes, when the Browns ran 6:30 off the clock to finish off the Ravens, who knew they would miss Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on defense but aren’t nearly the team they were.
With Baltimore desperately needing the ball, Campbell evaded pressure before making his big completion to Bess and later alertly flipped the ball to running back Chris Ogbonnaya to set up Billy Cundiff’s 22-yard field goal with 14 seconds left to put the Browns ahead by six.
The Ravens had one last chance, but running back Ray Rice, who hasn’t been the same since injuring his hip in Week 2 against Cleveland, was tackled near midfield as the Browns beat Baltimore for the first time since Nov. 18, 2007.
”We have to win one game,” said defensive end Chris Canty. ”It’s as simple as that. You have to take care of business and we haven’t been doing that. We’ve got to find a way to get back on track.”
Flacco finished 24 of 41 for 250 yards, but Baltimore’s offense sputtered most of the game against Cleveland’s vastly improved defense. In fact, Flacco was Baltimore’s leading rusher with 25 yards.
It was a monumental win for the Browns, who ended a three-game losing streak and passed their rivals in standings. Coach Rob Chudzinski spent the past week harping on the losing streak to Baltimore.
”Chud said it was time to end this beating we’ve been taking,” said linebacker Paul Kruger, who played for the Ravens last season. ”We did what it took and it feels good.”
Down 21-10 and running out of time, Flacco connected with Brown for a 7-yard TD with 12:09 left and then hit him again for the 2-point conversion to cut Cleveland’s lead to three. Tandon Doss, who earlier fumbled away a punt, set up the score with a 36-yard return that sparked the Ravens.
But it was the Browns who made the big plays in the closing minutes, none more important than Bess’ grab as Chudzinski went for it on fourth down with 3:12 left.
The Browns capitalized on a muffed punt by Doss to open a 21-10 lead in the third as Campbell threw a 4-yard TD pass to Gary Barnidge with 5:11 left. Baltimore’s defense was uncharacteristically confused during the sequence leading up to the TD as the Ravens were penalized for having 12 men on the field and Barnidge was able to slip away from the line uncovered.
”We’re good enough to get that stop,” Harbaugh said, referring to the Ravens’ inability to get off the field late in games. ”We have to get that stop and we haven’t done it in two or three games in a row.”
After looking dysfunctional for most of the first half, the Ravens came alive in the final minute and pulled to 14-10 on Flacco’s 19-yard TD pass to Brown, an undrafted free agent, with nine seconds left.
But Baltimore couldn’t maintain the momentum after halftime and lost again.
The season is slipping away.
”It’s going to be a challenge,” Harbaugh said. ”We’re 3-5. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
NOTES: Rice had just 17 yards on 11 carries and he was not in the locker room after Harbaugh spoke to the media. … CB Jimmy Smith strained his groin and will be re-evaluated Monday. … Ravens K Justin Tucker made a season-long, 51-yard field goal in the first half. … The Ravens host Cincinnati next week. … The Ravens’ last four losses have been by a total of 14 points.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org