Flacco delivered Baltimore the lead for good when he connected with tight end Darren Waller for a 4-yard touchdown near the back of the end zone on the team’s opening series of the third quarter.
He later found Steve Smith Sr. for a 9-yard score near the end of the third frame, before capping the scoring in the fourth quarter by floating a ball to former first-round pick Breshad Perriman in the end zone, who turned and hauled in the 27-yard pass for his firstcareer touchdown catch.
The quarterback credited a switch to an up-tempo style of offense for the team’s success in the second half.
“I think it’s simple. We’re good at it,” Flacco said of
running the hurry-up offense. “I think we’ve got good players, and when you do that kind of stuff, it relies on people just beating oneon-one coverage sometimes in simple ways. Nobody’s thinking too much.”
Flacco set up Waller’s touchdown grab by connecting with speedy receiver Mike Wallace on a quick slant pass for 20 yards. The quarterback later delivered a similar pass to Perriman that went for 25 yards that placed the Ravens in position for their second touchdown of the night.
Shortly after Smith’s touchdown catch, fullback Kyle Juszczyk hauled in a 2-point conversion pass from Flacco to extend the Ravens lead to 21-7.
“I think the biggest thing today was we were able to get the ball to Mike and Breshad underneath on some guys and just let them do the work,” said Flacco,
who finished 30-for-41 passing for 296 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. “Who doesn’t like [the hurry-up offense]? You get the defense on their heels, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The victory allowed the Ravens to maintain possession of first place in the AFC North. It also marked back-to-back wins after they defeated the archival Pittsburgh Steelers last week to snap a four-game losing streak.
While the Baltimore offense struggled to find momentum early in the game, its defense opened the contest with a similar performance as last week, when it held Pittsburgh off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter.
The Ravens limited Cleveland (0-10) to just 144 yards of total offense, including just 37 yards in the second half, as they registered four
sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs, lineman Timmy Jernigan and safety Lardarius Webb all brought down the quarterback and defensive backs Eric Weddle and Jerraud Powers both brought in interceptions, while Suggs (forced fumble) and Matthew Judon (fumble recovery) also combined for a turnover as part of a dominating performance by all levels of the defense.
“We just wanted to come out and dominate,” Jernigan said. “Those guys [Browns] came out last time and put 20 points on us [in Week 2]. So we just wanted to make sure we did a good job, start fast, not let those guys run the ball. That really was our main focus … the sacks and turnovers just kind of fell into place after that.”
Twice Flacco threw a pair of interceptions with
the Ravens driving deep in Cleveland territory and twice the Baltimore defense answered by forcing the Browns to punt.
“We count on them, ain’t no doubt about that,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said of his team’s offense. “We depend on them, and we believe in them. We’re going in just to make sure that we give them an oppertunity to get going. Tonight, obviously, it worked out for us.”
Baltimore also handed Cleveland its first 10-game losing streak in the 66-year history of the franchise.
Baltimore took the lead five minutes into the first quarter on a 25-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. The Browns took the lead with 6:30 remaining in the opening half when quarterback Cody Kessler connected with tight end Seth DeValve overtop Eric Weddle. The Ravens then pulled within 1 at halftime after Tucker drilled a 40-yard kick as time expired.
Facing the team that drafted him, Ravens running back Terrance West finished with 21 carries for 65 yards. Baltimore combined to rush for 119 yards as a team.
“A lot of the players on the sideline, really led by Jimmy Smith, mentioned that we finally have one of those games where we can [smile before the final minutes of the game],” Harbaugh said. “It wasn’t until three minutes were left in the game that we had this conversation, but it was a good three minutes, that’s for sure.”
The Ravens wore an all-purple alternate home jersey with gold numbers as they participated in the recent “color rush” craze currently sweeping the NFL.