On track: Ravens stay in playoff picture, down Browns 27-10
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 18, 2017 08:02 AM
Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams (98) celebrates with nose tackle Michael Pierce (97) after Williams scored on a 1-yard fumble recovery during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
By Tom Withers, Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) — When he looked up and saw hundreds of purple-and-black clad Baltimore fans ringing the tunnel entrance, coach John Harbaugh was moved to return the love.
He tossed his baseball cap into the stands and peeled off two sweat shirts that he handed out as souvenirs.
“Well worth it,” Harbaugh said of his generosity.
The Ravens didn’t give up anything else Sunday.
Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass, ran for a score and beat Cleveland again as Baltimore stayed on track for a spot in the AFC playoffs with a 27-10 win over the Browns, now two losses from becoming the NFL’s second 0-16 team.
Flacco scored on a 2-yard run and threw a 33-yard TD pass to tight end Benjamin Watson as the Ravens (8-6), coming off a heartbreaking loss to rival Pittsburgh, took control with two touchdowns in the final 3:01 of the first half.
Baltimore’s opportunistic defense also contributed by forcing four more turnovers, with tackle Brandon Williams recovering a fumble and rolling into the end zone for a TD in third quarter to put the Ravens up 24-10.
“We’ve been doing some good things for a few weeks now and obviously it’s getting our confidence rolling,” said Flacco, who improved to 17-2 against the Browns. “Guys are starting to get some mojo and really starting to feel it.”
The Browns (0-14) went 0-8 at home — 0-7 in Cleveland, 0-1 in London — for the second time and must win at either Chicago or Pittsburgh to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in the notorious 0-16 club. Last season, the Browns avoided infamy by winning their final home game and finishing 1-15.
Cleveland is 1-29 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson, who is expected to be back despite his .033 winning percentage. Following the game, Jackson addressed speculation he might be interested in going Cincinnati, where Marvin Lewis is expected to leave at the end of the season.
“I’m not running from this,” Jackson said. “I have never gone any place and left it worse than when I found it. I’m not going to run from this. I’m going to be here and I need to get this fixed as fast as I can because I think it is important.”
Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer threw two more interceptions, the last into a group of defenders in the fourth quarter.
Harbaugh wasn’t concerned about his team overlooking the Browns with so much on the line. Baltimore was coming off a punch-in-the-gunt, last-second loss to the Steelers, and while the Ravens weren’t at their best, they didn’t do anything to help Cleveland’s cause.
And as long as they take care of business at home against Indianapolis and Cincinnati in their last two games, the Ravens will return to the postseason after a two-year absence.
With the Ravens leading 17-10, Baltimore’s defense put away the Browns.
Kizer was stripped in the end zone on his blindside by Za’Darius Smith and the loose ball was pounced on by Williams, who shimmied his 340-pound frame across the goal line.
“I had to do a little scooch, but it was good,” Williams said, adding it was his first TD since high school. “I’m happy they didn’t call it back. I would have been upset.”
Baltimore has scored five defensive touchdowns. It’s also forced 33 takeaways — nine in two games against Cleveland.
The Browns have lost 31 consecutive games on Sunday.
Flacco’s .895 winning percentage against the Browns is the third best by an active quarterback against any opponent. Ben Roethlisberger is 21-2 (.913) against Cleveland and Tom Brady is 27-3 (.900) against Buffalo.
Baltimore punter Sam Koch was given a game ball after pinning the Browns deep with perfectly placed kicks. Koch had four punts inside Cleveland’s 20-yard line, giving him a league-high 37 this season.
“The dude is amazing,” Williams said. “The way he pins them back, it’s money every time. I see him in practice every day. It’s automatic. We love him for it. The guy’s a baller.”
Lewis’ imminent departure in Cincinnati has added a new wrinkle to Cleveland’s cloudy coaching situation.
Although owner Jimmy Haslam has said Jackson will return in 2018, new general manager John Dorsey has left open the possibility of a coaching change. Dorsey ripped fired vice president of football operations Sashi Brown earlier this week, but sidestepped a question about Jackson’s future.
“I am not coping with this very well,” Jackson said. “I haven’t for two years. We have to fix this.”
Ravens: Harbaugh said WR Jeremy Maclin (knee) and DT Carl Davis (lower leg) will undergo MRIs on Monday, but he doesn’t think either injury is serious. ... S Chuck Clark sustained a head injury in the first quarter but returned after clearing concussion protocol.
Browns: CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee) missed his second straight game. ... DT Danny Shelton sustained a lower right leg injury in the second half but returned.
Ravens: Host Indianapolis on Sunday.
Browns: Visit Chicago on Sunday.