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Ravens D must move past overtime collapse
CLEVELAND — Following the previous two games, Baltimore safety Eric Weddle was quick to assert that these weren’t the same old Ravens.
The offense was scoring points in bunches and the defense was getting key stops at critical times. Memories of late-game defensive letdowns from the previous two seasons seemed to be just that – increasingly distant memories.
But Sunday afternoon in Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium, the Ravens were unable to make one more stop. After holding the Browns to only 9 points in regulation, Baltimore made two more stands in overtime. It just couldn’t make a third.
The Browns drove the ball 65 yards on seven plays to set up Greg Joseph’s 37-yard field goal that delivered Cleveland a 12-9 overtime win over the Ravens only six seconds before the game would have ended in a tie. The win was the Browns’ first in the AFC North since beating Baltimore on Oct. 11, 2015 in M&T Bank Stadium.
“They just made a few more plays than we did to win 12-9 in overtime, so congratulations to them,” Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
The drive featured a back-breaking conversion on third-and-8 where a stop would have given the Ravens the ball back with not much needed to reach Justin Tucker’s field goal range. Instead, rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield evaded contact as Suggs and Matthew Judon applied pressure on rushes from opposite edges. The No. 1 draft pick found fellow rookie Derrick Willies near the first-down marker with cornerback Brandon Carr in coverage. Carr was unable to make the tackle, and Willies broke loose across midfield until he was eventually brought down by Weddle at the Baltimore 43-yard line after a gain of 39 yards.
“The game’s on the line and he made a great throw and the guy made a great catch and run. As good as our defense played, they made one more play than us.
That’s unfortunate, but credit to the Browns,” Weddle said. “We had good coverage, he got through the tackle and runs for another 20 yards. We stopped their offense the entire game, they just made one more play than us. It comes down to a tight game like that, the game’s going back and forth, one big play is going to sway the momentum. It just happened to be at the end of the game.”
The Browns were near field goal range, but three straight rushes by running back Duke Johnson of 15, 5 and 4 yards almost guaranteed it. Still, Joseph’s kick was an ugly one that barely cleared the crossbar. He had previously missed a 55-yard attempt at the end of regulation that could have prevented overtime.
“Just a mental error. We didn’t get the call across the whole defense, that’s pretty much it,” inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said of the game-altering pass plays. “We had our chances, we didn’t capitalize. We did a pretty good job on defense, but at the end, we had a few mental errors – we had a big mental error that got them down the field. We just got to make sure we don’t have those kind of mental errors at the end of the game.”
Cleveland’s third-and-8 conversion followed a second-and-21 hole the Browns found themselves in the previous play. Judon sniffed out a reverse on first down and tackled wide receiver Rod Streeter for an 11-yard loss. Mayfield scrambled for a gain of 13 yards the following play to set up a more manageable third down for the Browns.
“He made some plays with his feet,” Suggs said. “We knew he was capable of doing that, we wanted him not to do that, he made some plays with his feet, though.”
Baltimore’s defense forced a three-and-out on the first series of overtime. It forced the Browns to turn the ball over on downs in five plays on their next possession.
In the fourth quarter, the Ravens forced Cleveland to punt three times and settle for the unsuccessful 55-yard field goal attempt.
Baltimore forced punts on nine of the Browns’ 15 possessions, forced one turnover – a Tavon Young interception on Cleveland’s first series of the day – and sacked Mayfield five times.
“When you hold a team to 9 points up until the last [minute], that’s going to be good most games,” Weddle said.
The game’s lone touchdown came in the final minute of the first half as Mayfield threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rashard Higgins. Five games into the season, the Ravens have yet to surrender a touchdown after halftime.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Derrick Willies (84) runs after a pass reception during overtime in an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Cleveland. The Browns won 12-9 in overtime.