| Akron Beacon Journal
AFC Week 14 overreactions: Buffalo has arrived, while Pittsburgh looks out of gas
SportsPulse: The Bills are on the cusp of winning their first division title in 25 years and they can do a lot more damage than that. Mackenzie Salmon reacts to the biggest storylines in the AFC from Week 14.
CLEVELAND — Browns players and coaches insisted last week they were a completely different team than the one the Ravens pummeled during the Sept. 13 season opener in Baltimore.
They proved they were right on “Monday Night Football,” but they still fell 47-42 to the Ravens in heartbreaking fashion at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson moved the Ravens into position in the waning moments on a six-play, 38-yard drive, and kicker Justin Tucker made the game-winning 55-yard field goal into the Dawg Pound with two seconds left in the fourth quarter of the prime-time clash between AFC North foes.
A last-ditch effort to score on a series of laterals resulted in the Browns taking a safety when wide receiver Jarvis Landry was tackled in the back of the end zone with time expired.
The Browns (9-4) had their four-game winning streak snapped and lost at home for just the second time this season. The Ravens (8-5) earned a win they desperately needed in their hunt for a playoff berth.
The third quarter was cruel to Cleveland, which was blown out 38-6 in Week 1 in Baltimore.
About midway through it, Jackson had set the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback on “Monday Night Football.” He finished with 124 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries (13.8 average).
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Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield had his streak of passes without an interception snapped at 187 attempts when linebacker Tyus Bowser picked off a ball intended for wide receiver Rashard Higgins and returned 17 yards to the Cleveland 1 with 4:24 left in the third quarter. Mayfield hadn’t thrown an interception in the previous five games.
On the next play, rookie running back J.K. Dobbins rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, giving the Ravens a 34-20 lead with 4:21 left in the third quarter. Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor blocked the ensuing extra point.
Then Browns rallied as the fourth quarter got going.
On fourth-and-4, Mayfield found Higgins wide open in the end zone and connected with him for a 21-yard touchdown pass. Then rookie receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones caught a two-point pass off a deflection after running back Kareem Hunt couldn’t hang on to a Mayfield pass near the goal line. The sequence allowed the Browns to cut their deficit to 34-28 with 13:36 left in the fourth quarter.
Then Ravens backup quarterback Trace McSorley entered the game because Jackson went to the locker room to be treated for cramps in the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player’s second game back from COVID-19.
After the Ravens went three-and-out with receiver Marquise Brown dropping a pass from McSorley on third down, the Browns kept their momentum alive.
On third-and-goal, Mayfield rolled right, kept the ball and rushed for a 5-yard touchdown at the end of a 12-play, 70-yard drive. Cody Parkey made a 38-yard extra point after a delay of game penalty to give the Browns a 35-34 edge with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter.
Jackson remained out of the game for the vast majority of the next series, but he re-entered the action on fourth-and-5 after McSorley suffered a left knee injury as he slipped and lost 2 yards on a third-down rushing attempt. On Jackson’s first play back, he rolled right and looked as if he would run but floated a pass over the defense and into the hands of Brown for a 44-yard touchdown. Dobbins rushed for the two-point conversion, and the Ravens went ahead 42-35 with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter.
The Browns struck back with a four-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Mayfield’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Hunt and Parkey’s extra point tied the score with 1:04 left in the fourth quarter.
Then Tucker delivered in the clutch.
With a four-play, 75-yard scoring drive, the Ravens punched the Browns in the mouth to begin the second half. On third-and-3 from the Baltimore 37, Jackson faked out star defensive end Myles Garrett on a zone read and broke loose for a 44-yard run. On the next play, running back Gus Edwards broke a would-be tackle by linebacker Mack Wilson near the line of scrimmage and rushed for a 19-yard touchdown, allowing the Ravens to build a 28-14 lead with 12:47 left in the third quarter.
The Browns answered immediately with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Running back Kareem Hunt caught a 26-yard pass from Mayfield on third-and-1, and two plays later, Hunt rushed for a 5-yard touchdown. But Parkey missed the extra point wide right, so the Ravens led 28-20 with 9:06 left in the third quarter.
The Browns trailed 21-14 at halftime after Jackson rushed for a touchdown in each of the first two quarters.
The Browns opened the game with the ball and seized a 7-0 lead after running back Nick Chubb finished the 11-play, 81-yard march by rushing for a 7-yard rushing touchdown with 9:06 left in the first quarter. The drive survived two fumbles by wide receiver Rashard Higgins on the two plays preceding Chubb’s TD. Higgins recovered the first fumble, and the other went out of bounds.
The Ravens had no problem retaliating right away. Aided by nickelback and game captain M.J. Stewart’s two penalties – 5 yards for holding and 29 yards for pass interference – the Ravens produced a nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive. Jackson capped it on third-and-3 by rushing up the middle for a 5-yard touchdown with 3:04 left in the opening quarter.
The Browns advanced to the Baltimore 21 during the next series, but the offense stalled there, and Parkey missed a 39-yard field goal wide left with 14:56 remaining in the second quarter.
The Cleveland defense stepped up after the letdown, though. Defensive end Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson sacked Jackson on back-to-back plays to force a Ravens three-and-out and punt. However, the offense failed to follow with a meaningful possession.
Then the two teams traded rushing touchdowns on consecutive series. The Ravens went ahead 14-7 after running back Gus Edward capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with an 11-yard TD run with 7:49 left in the second quarter. The Browns tied the score 14-14 after Chubb rushed for his second TD of the night – this time from 14 yards out – and finished a seven-play, 75-yard march with 4:16 remaining in the second quarter.
During the next sequence, Vernon sacked Jackson again, leading to another three-and-out by the Ravens.
Penalties killed the Browns after they took control at their 35.
On third-and-3 from the Cleveland 42, Peoples-Jones’ pass interference penalty wiped out a 14-yard completion from Mayfield to receiver Rashard Higgins for a would-be first down on third-and-3.
On third-and-13, Mayfield was flagged for intentional grounding as he absorbed a hit from linebacker Matthew Judon. To no avail, Mayfield and the Browns argued the penalty shouldn’t have been called because the quarterback’s arm had been hit by defensive end Yannick Njakoue.
The penalty set up fourth-and-24 from the Cleveland 21, and the Ravens started the next series at their 44 after Jamie Gillan’s punt had been downed there.
The Browns pressured Jackson on third-and-10, but he escaped a would-be sack and floated a pass to tight end Mark Andrews for a 39-yard gain. Andrews had gotten behind Stewart and made the catch between the nickelback and free safety Andrew Sendejo. The Ravens had minus-8 passing yards prior to the play.
On the next play, Jackson rushed for a 17-yard touchdown, and the Ravens captured a seven-point advantage with 30 seconds left before halftime.
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