Late taunting call proves critical
For second year in a row, special teams come up big
CLEVELAND — Ravens safety Lardarius Webb was just mad that he allowed the completion. He wasn’t even thinking about the football that bounced off his shoulder.
But what seemed to be a harmless flip by wide receiver Terrelle Pryor after his reception late in the game wound up contributing to the Ravens’ holding on for a 25-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Trying to lead his team into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, Browns quarterback Josh McCown hit Pryor on the far sideline for a 20-yard gain that should have put the ball at the Ravens 10-yard line with 20 seconds to play.
But there were two flags thrown on the play. One was a defensive-holding call on Webb, and the other was a taunting call on Pryor.
With the offsetting penalties, the ball moved back to the 30. McCown’s pass was intercepted by inside linebacker C.J. Mosley on the next play.
“The ball did hit me,” said Webb, who acknowledged that he wasn’t sure what happened on the play or what Pryor said afterward because he was focused on getting a defensive stop. “I guess that’s what made him call it. It’s probably what he said, and then the ball hit me. They are real tough on those things now. Good call. That’s what I’m going to say.”
The league has been cracking down on players’ throwing the ball in the direction of opponents after plays. But in this case, it appeared Pryor was just trying to flip the ball to one of the side officials.
“There’s other people that can catch a ball and spin it and look at players in the face,” Pryor told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer after the game. “But if I get up and drop the ball, clearly I wasn’t trying to drop it on nobody. But I’ll let [coach Hue Jackson] handle that.”
Jackson said he hadn’t seen a replay, but the Browns “have to do a better job of making sure that we get the ball to the official and go from there.” Another block: On their previous trip to Cleveland last November, the Ravens won, 33-27, when safety Will Hill returned a field-goal try blocked by Brent Urban for a game-winning 64-yard touchdown with no time on the clock. The Ravens’ latest block Sunday was hardly as dramatic, but it played its part in helping the visitors come The Ravens’ Lardarius Webb, left, and the Browns’ Terrelle Pryor tangle up on the lastminute play that led to a taunting penalty on Pryor, moving the ball back to the Ravens 30. back from a 20-0 deficit.
After Corey Coleman’s 11-yard touchdown reception had given the Browns a 20-0 lead, defensive end Lawrence Guy blocked Patrick Murray’s extra-point try. Rookie cornerback Tavon Young scooped it up and sprinted 63 yards to give the Ravens two points.
“This is what [special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg] tells us: ‘When we line up on that field-goal block, our main goal is to block that kick every single time,’ ” Guy said. “I’m going to give it all I can to block it.”
Since 2014, the Ravens have blocked an NFL-high nine kicks. In Brooks’ honor: The Browns held a moment of silence before the game in honor of former Ravens defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, who died Thursday after battling esophageal and stomach cancer. After the game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh dedicated the victory to Brooks.
“Last night in our team meeting when we talked about C.B., we had to talk about [late cornerback] Tray Walker as well,” Harbaugh said. “We’re kind of like a family, we’re together every day, and these things impact all of us.”
Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams said he was in tears before the game, thinking about what Brooks has meant to him and his career. Not Wright’s day: Ravens veteran cornerback Shareece Wright received a game ball after his 11-tackle performance last week against the Bills. But he struggled against the Browns, who targeted him early and often.
Wright missed a key tackle on Andrew Hawkins that prolonged Cleveland’s first drive. The drive ended with his getting beat by Coleman in the back of the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown.
On the final play of the third quarter, Wright had a potential interception wrestled away from him by Coleman, who made the 47-yard catch. However, the Ravens defense stiffened, and Murray missed the 52-yard field-goal try to end the drive.
“Short-term memory, man. You’ve got to understand that this is the NFL. It doesn’t always go your way,” Wright said. “It’s just how you respond when you do give up a touchdown, when you do give up a big play. I’ve been through worse things in my life. Knowing that, I just keep fighting. It’s a long game and it’s part of the game.” End zone: Kamar Aiken, the team’s leading receiver last year, was held without a catch on just one target. … With three catches for 64 yards, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. surpassed 14,000 receiving yards for his career. He’s only the 11th player in league history to do so. Smith also moved past James Lofton and into 10th place in all-time receiving yards … After a sluggish performance in Week 1, return specialist Devin Hester gave the Ravens a nice boost, gaining 80 yards on two kickoff returns and 22 yards on two punt returns. … The Ravens’ 20-2 first-quarter deficit was their second largest in franchise history. … The Ravens had the same seven inactive players they did for their season-opening victory over the Bills: running backs Kenneth Dixon and Buck Allen, offensive lineman John Urschel, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, defensive tackle Willie Henry, and cornerbacks Will Davis and Jerraud Powers. Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith played despite not having practiced all week with an ankle injury, and finished with two tackles.