‘don’t blink,’ win
“You knowwhat’s crazy? Whenheblocked that field goal and Tavon scooped and scored, that just gave me fire,” said Wallace, who had four catches for 41 yards and the two touchdowns. He has the Ravens’ only three touchdowns this season, and one more than he did all last year with the Minnesota Vikings. “It was like, ‘Man, we got these guys.’ We just needed one thing, one moment to get rolling, and that was it.”
Other players believe a more aggressive mentality on offense and defense was the impetus. Defensively, the Ravens came after McCown and hurt his left shoulder. On a day when the team wanted to honor former defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, who died Saturday after battling esophageal and stomach cancer, the Ravens gave up two first-quarter touchdown passes and an 85yard touchdown run by Isaiah Crowell. All that happened in a 5:11 span of the first quarter.
But the Ravens, who gave up more yards and points in the first quarter against the Browns than they did in the entire regularseason opener to the Buffalo Bills, responded by holding Cleveland scoreless for the final 49 minutes. Mosley got the game-sealing interception, and safety Eric Weddle also picked off a pass from McCown, leading to a late first-half field goal by Tucker.
“We put the team in that situation. In a million years, we never thought we’d start a game like that, especially with that big run,” said Mosley, who also talked about the importance of honoring the beloved Brooks. “We definitely wanted to win this game for him. I know he’s resting in peace, but I’m pretty sure he was [cursing] us, too.”
The Ravens’ first four drives ended with a punt, an interception by Flacco, a turnover on downs and another punt. But Flacco talked with offensive coordinator Marc Trestman about improving the tempo and taking more chances downfield.
The Ravens scored on their next three possessions. Tight end Dennis Pitta was a huge factor: Hehad nine catches for102 yards on the same field where his career nearly ended two years ago.
Some Ravens said their experience in games like this allowed them to overcome their own mistakes and make key plays late. The Ravens lost nine games last year by eight points or fewer. They’ve won their first two games in 2016 by a total of 11 points.
“Last year, we weren’t getting these, and this year, we are,” said Smith, who had three catches for 64 yards. “Joe said it well: In December, there’s going to be some games like this, so we’re getting conditioned now. Realistically, that’s not the way you want to play every week. You don’t want to play on the seat of your pants every week. That’s not good for your heart.”
The Ravens have started 2-0 five times in franchise history, and they’ve made it to the postseason in the previous four. This team has plenty to figure out. The offense is having a hard time getting into a rhythm, and the running gameremains a struggle. Ondefense, the lapses early were curious, given how much focus they put on winning on third down and getting to McCown.
But when it was over, the Ravens celebrated playing through the types of mistakes and problems that hurt them last season.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these players and coaches,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “The play-callers were exceptionally good. Bothofthemstucktothegameplanand didn’t overreact. That takes a lot when you have that kind of first quarter.”
Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, right, intercepts a pass intended for Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, second from left, with 13 seconds to go, clinching the Ravens’ 25-20 victory.
Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman, right, prevents the Browns’ Jordan Poyer from intercepting a pass by Joe Flacco on third-and-22 in the third quarter.