OWINGS MILLS — Ray Rice knew the Cleveland Browns would remember him, never forgetting how he embarrassed them in humiliating fashion.
The Baltimore Ravens’ Pro Bowl running back manhandled the Browns on their turf three weeks ago, running roughshod over an overmatched defense for a career-high 204 rushing yards during a 24-10 victory.
Now, the Browns (4-10) would like nothing more than to exact a measure of revenge against the Ravens (10-4) today at M&T Bank Stadium.
"Coming into this game, we know Cleveland is a prideful bunch," Rice said. "They’re not going to just let you walk over them. They’ve been a great team at playing the spoiler."
And the Browns would love to spoil the Ravens’ bid for an unprecedented, undefeated season at home as they pursue their eighth consecutive victory over Cleveland.
Chasing an AFC North division crown, which remains in their grasp provided they defeat the Browns today and the Cincinnati Bengals next week, the Ravens are also in position to earn the second playoff seed in the AFC.
After surrendering 290 rushing yards to the Ravens in the last meeting, the Browns are playing with hurt pride on their minds.
"We got embarrassed, and every guy on this team on the defensive side is aware of it," Browns middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. "They came out and ran the ball down our throat, so we’ve got another good challenge ahead of us. That first meeting was not the identity we want to put out versus the Ravens. We have to face them twice a year. They’re aware of it that, and they came in and basically just bullied us.
It was definitely ugly.
Rice sent defenders’ knees and ankles buckling with his razor-sharp cuts.
And pulling offensive guard Marshal Yanda decked defensive linemen and linebackers with a series of thunderous blocks.
Backup running back Ricky Williams rushed for a season-high 76 yards and a touchdown.
So, Rice is expecting a special emphasis on clogging up the line of scrimmage from the Browns.
"Anybody would after having a game like that," Rice said. "We respect them, they respect us. It’s all going to be about execution, but we know that they are going to put a nice edge on their defense, have a safety down, whatever they got to do to get the job done. Nobody is going to line up and let you just run over them. It’s going to be a fight."
Perhaps, it will.
However, history suggests that it won’t.
Not with the Ravens having won 17 of their past 18 home games and not having lost to the Browns in four years.
Over the past two weeks, the Browns’ run defense has stiffened as they held Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall to 76 rushing yards and Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells to 51 yards.
"We’ve addressed it," Jackson said. "After that game, we saw some different runs that attacked us, but we kind of know how they’re going to attack us. We figure they will come in to make that game plan easy and just try to run the ball, and guys are aware of it. And then it’s just up to us to hold up to the challenge."
The Browns anticipate similar tactics from the Ravens considering how they bulldozed them during the first game.
"You have a runner like Ray Rice, it makes sense to get him the football," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "In a lot of ways, regardless of how you play offense, an effective running game helps everything go."
The Ravens endured a humbling loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night, a 34-14 setback that temporarily throttled them out of first place in the AFC North and down to the fifth seed in the playoff standings until the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the San Francisco 49ers one day later.
Following the Houston Texans’ surprising defeat to the Indianapolis Colts, the Ravens’ path to the second seed is even clearer.
"The fact that if we win both games now, we will win the division, that means a lot," coach John Harbaugh said. "Of course, we have to control what we have to control. And the beauty of that is, we can control a lot."
Undefeated at home, the Ravens are 3-4 on the road with puzzling losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Seattle Seahawks among their defeats.
As a wild-card team, they would have to travel in the playoffs.
As the second seed, though, the Ravens would be guaranteed at least one home playoff game and a first-round bye.
All of the Ravens’ playoff losses in the past three seasons were on the road, falling at Pittsburgh twice and at Indianapolis once.
"We don’t got to take our show on the road if we take care of business," Rice said. "That route is very hard. The playoffs ain’t starting yet, but every game from here on out is essentially a playoff game. We know what it’s about."
The Browns close out their dreadful season against the Ravens and Steelers. They have nothing at stake, nothing to lose.
"Yeah, at this point, the playoffs are out of the picture," Jackson said. "But if we can knock one of those guys off, we definitely want to play the spoiler."
Rookie wide receiver Greg Little, the Brown’s leading receiver, told Cleveland reporters: "We’re not throwing in the towel just because we’re not in it. We’re trying to take somebody down with us. That takes a very big guy to stand up and say we’re not going to back down because we’re not in the fight."
In what he meant as a compliment, albeit a backhanded one, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs characterized the Browns as a boxer.
"I describe them as the brawler," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "They’re going to come and they’re going to fight. We expect nothing else."