Ravens’ comeback rocks Cleveland

Street Talk Ravens’ comeback rocks Cleveland

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CLEVELAND — Ray Lewis huddled the Baltimore Ravens around him by the bench in the third quarter, authoritatively forecasting a victory even though they trailed the Cleveland Browns by two touchdowns.

“I told each of them to look me in the eyes,” Lewis said. “I told them we were going to win the game, and how we were going to do it. We have to believe that.”

It was a prescient statement from the star middle linebacker. And this might ultimately be counted as the day that a traditionally weak offense finally became an equal partner with their dominant defensive colleagues.

The Ravens (5-3) scored 24 unanswered points Sunday to topple the Browns, 37-27, behind breakthrough games from rookie quarterback Joe Flacco and rookie running back Ray Rice. Winning their third consecutive game and sweeping the season series with
Cleveland brings

to within a half-game of tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for first place in the AFC North.

Touchdowns from fullback Le’Ron McClain and wide receiver Derrick Mason tied the score. Matt Stover’s third field goal of the day represented the game-winner. And outside linebacker Terrell Suggs put the exclamation point on the win with his 42-yard interception return for an insurance touchdown in the final minutes.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to the offense, amazing what they did,” Suggs said. “They put up 14 points fast when we were down. They scored twice and you could feel the sense of team being formed, what we’ve been searching for all year.

“You’ve definitely got to respect Ray Lewis, hands down the greatest general, the greatest leader. When we were down, he told the entire team, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ You could see the truth in his eyes.”

The balance of an emerging offense was obvious, too.

The Ravens piled up 429 yards of total offense as a composed Flacco completed 17 of 29 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 109.6 quarterback rating.


And Rice filled in more than ably for ailing starter Willis McGahee, who was sidelined with a sprained ankle. He bolted for a season-high 154 yards on 21 carries.

On an electrifying 60-yard run, Rice dashed up the right sideline down to the Browns’ 3-yard line when he was pushed out of bounds. The sprint set up Stover’s deciding 22-yard field goal for a 30-27 lead.

“Ray did a great job out there, he ran tough, especially the last run,” Mason said. “Ray just kept running the ball. If you run hard and continue to stay with your technique, you’ll bust one and Ray busted one at the end.”

Rice was simply too quick for the Browns’ linebackers, cutting back against pursuit to locate his holes and adeptly following his blocks as the offensive line did a decent job of walling off massive nose guard Shaun “Big Baby” Rogers in the second half.

The long run from the former
Rutgers star was pivotal to the Ravens’ cause.

“We called the play, and the hole opened up,” Rice said. “As a running back, you always want a one-on-one. Your eyes get big when you see that hole. They close up a lot quicker in the NFL. That was one of the turning points.

“I can’t say that I was surprised. I do a great job of studying and watching. When it is my turn, I’m ready. It surprises me with how many people are rallying behind you even if you make a bad play.”

Flacco was especially commanding, avoiding turnovers and firing accurate spirals. His 47-yard rainbow bomb landed in diving wide receiver Mark Clayton’s outstretched hands for a touchdown that staked

to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

“I think we did a great job of getting what we wanted,” Flacco said. “We had a chance to get them over the top for a touchdown. That was pretty big.”

Operating the no-huddle in the fourth quarter, Flacco stayed on the attack. He went after cornerback Eric Wright on a stop-and-turn pattern.

Wright couldn’t stop his momentum, though, falling to the ground as Mason turned and burned for a 28-yard touchdown catch that tied the score. Mason caught nine passes for 136 yards.

“They came with an all-out blitz, and Joe found me wide open,” Mason said. “When you get the ball in your hands and turn upfield, good things happen. I was surprised he fell down.”

With the defense shutting down running back Jamal Lewis to limit him to 49 rushing yards on 19 carries for a 2.6 average and backup cornerbacks Frank Walker and Fabian Washington filling in capably for injured starters Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, the Browns had just 274 yards of total offense and converted only 2 of 12 third downs.

Suggs’ big play definitely finished the Browns off, prompting chants of ‘Brady! Brady!” from the stands for popular backup quarterback Brady Quinn as he intercepted Derek Anderson’s errant screen pass intended for running back Jason Wright. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata pressured

on the play, obscuring his view of a charging Suggs.

Silent for most of the game as Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas stonewalled him at the line of scrimmage, Suggs’ timing was perfect as he anticipated the play and rumbled untouched for his second touchdown of the season on an interception. Afterward, he rubbed it in in front of the Dawg Pound cheering section with an emphatic spike and dance.

“I thought screen all the way,” Suggs said. “We’re an aggressive defense, and that’s probably one of the plays that we can make. I rushed the passer the play before, and I saw him talking to himself.

“In a game-time situation, what can he possibly be talking about? I kind of just baited him, and he threw it right to me just like the last guy.”

It took a supreme effort for the Ravens to win this one, overcoming Pro Bowl return specialist Joshua Cribbs’ 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and his 278 total return yards. Cribbs shook off rookie safety and Cleveland native Haruki Nakamura and Stover and avoided a diving Corey Ivy on his way to the end zone.

“The guy is hard to bring down,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

The Browns had won three of their four games heading into Sunday, but had few answers for Flacco and an improving offense.

A key second-half drop from wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who scored earlier in the game when he wrestled the ball away from
Walker in the end zone for a 28-yard score, on a great throw from
Anderson hurt

’s chances, too.

Following Wright’s third-quarter touchdown on a seven-yard pass from

, Flacco marched the Ravens 79 yards before McClain plunged in from one yard out to bring the Ravens to within seven points of tying the game.

Return specialist Yamon Figurs’ 23-yard punt return to the Browns’ 42-yard line set up Mason’s touchdown.

“That’s a happy locker room,” Harbaugh said. “I couldn’t be prouder to be the coach of the Baltimore Ravens.”

For a change, it was an equal locker room.

The offense held up its end of the bargain this time instead of just relying on the defense. This time, they bailed the defense out.

“No matter what happened out there and it wasn’t pretty, you see us coming together as a team,” center Jason Brown said. “Somehow, someway, we’re going to find a way to get the job done.

“What happened out there is us sticking together and overcoming that adversity. That’s very tough to do in this league, but it’s such a great learning experience. We can build from it and put this in our bank and keep growing.”

Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for the Carroll County Times
Photo by Sabina Moran 

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson


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