First-place Ravens flourish at expense of winless Browns
BALTIMORE (AP) Just two weeks ago, the Baltimore Ravens had lost four straight and were working on their second offensive coordinator of the season.
Now they're alone in first place in the AFC North and coming off their most lopsided victory in two years.
After the Ravens (5-4) used an impressive second half to roll past the winless Cleveland Browns 28-7 on Thursday night, Joe Flacco took stock of the situation and smiled.
''It feels good. It's Thursday night and we've got the weekend off,'' the quarterback said. ''It's a lot of fun being part of winning football. It's one of the toughest things to do in the world, to win a game in the NFL.''
Oh, don't the Browns know it. Cleveland has lost the first 10 games of a season for the first time since it joined the league in 1950, and inched closer to joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only 0-16 team in NFL history.
They're down, but the Browns haven't quit.
''There are better days ahead for this group,'' said tight end Seth DeValve, who scored Cleveland's lone touchdown. ''We are not flinching and we are not giving up. These guys are working hard every day to get a win.''
DeValve's first NFL touchdown gave the Browns a 7-3 lead in the second quarter, but Flacco threw two touchdown passes in the third and another with 6:21 left to provide the Ravens with their second successive win.
It was the first time this season the Ravens were involved in a game decided by more than eight points. It was also their most lopsided win since a 20-10 victory over Cleveland on Dec. 28, 2014.
Some things we learned about the Ravens and Browns:
SUGGS IS BACK: Despite tearing his left biceps last month, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs continues to excel.
After Cleveland inserted backup quarterback Josh McCown midway through the third quarter, Suggs beat his man and hit McCown's arm as he threw, setting up an interception by teammate Jerraud Powers at the Browns 40.
In the fourth quarter, Suggs stripped McCown to force a fumble recovered by Baltimore.
''I've been around for 14 years, but I still feel young,'' Suggs said. ''I have played with a torn biceps before. I have come back from a torn Achilles before. So I guess it's just in my DNA. My mom and dad did something special when they made me.''
CONFIDENT IN KESSLER: Though rookie Cody Kessler was replaced in the third quarter by McCown, Browns coach Hue Jackson said Kessler would start in Cleveland's next game against Pittsburgh in 10 days.
''Absolutely, I'm still going to play (Kessler),'' Jackson said. ''He's a young player and I'm going to put him back out there.''
Jackson said he removed Kessler ''because I wanted a spark.''
So even though they're winless, the Browns don't have a quarterback controversy on their hands.
FINDING THE END ZONE: On a night when Ravens receiver Steve Smith caught his 78th career touchdown pass, teammate Breshad Perriman was overjoyed with his first.
The second-year receiver, who missed all of his rookie season after sustaining a knee injury on his first day of training camp, hauled in Flacco's 27-yard pass with 6:21 to play.
Referees reviewed the catch, but in the end determined Perriman maintained control of the ball as he rolled over in the end zone.
''It was a complete blessing,'' Perriman said. ''(I've been) working for it for a long time, and it finally came today. (It's) just how long it took to get here and all the work you had to put in. All the stuff I've been through.''
SECOND THOUGHTS: The Browns' inability to contain the opposition after halftime – a season-long issue – resurfaced again.
The Ravens outscored them 22-0 after the break. That gives Cleveland's foes a 157-51 edge in the second half and overtime this season.
Jackson can't explain it, and his players are getting tired of addressing the problem.
''This is several games now where we had the lead in the first half and we weren't able to finish them off in the second half,'' offensive tackle Joe Thomas said. ''That's something we will look at here over the next 10 days.''
For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL