Final recap: Ravens 20, Browns 10 (click here for the box score)
The Browns simply don't have the firepower necessary to compensate for losing the turnover battle against superior opponents. The Baltimore Ravens proved that by recording four takeaways and committing only one turnover in their victory Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Ravens (11-4) swept the season series between the two AFC North rivals and clinched a playoff berth for the third consecutive season. Meanwhile, the Browns (5-10) suffered their third consecutive defeat and reached double-digit losses for the third season in a row and the ninth time since 1999. Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy was responsible for three of the Browns' four turnovers. He threw a career-high three interceptions, two of which were picked off by Ravens safety Ed Reed. As he prepared for his first encounter with the Ravens this past week, McCoy said he would need to be aware of Reed at all times. Apparently, that's easier said than done. Reed read McCoy's eyes all day. As a result, he now has 52 career interceptions, including 10 against the Browns. The Browns are now in serious danger of closing the season with a four-game losing streak, an obvious contrast from their four-game winning streak in the final four games of the 2009 season. They'll need to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) next weekend at home to avoid their second 5-11 record in as many seasons. Collapsing down the stretch certainly won't increase the odds that Eric Mangini will return as Cleveland's coach in 2011. The way the coaching staff has handled the end of the first half during the past two weeks probably won't reflect well on Mangini, either. Poor time management ruined the Browns' chances of taking a shot at the end zone on third down just before halftime. If they would have used a timeout earlier, they wouldn't have felt compelled to kick a field goal with six seconds left on third-and-1o from the Ravens' 13. Instead, Phil Dawson was summoned, and he made a 30-yard field goal. The Browns entered halftime with a 13-10 deficit and two unused timeouts. The bottom line is they were unorganized, and the momentum seemed to shift as a result. Then at the beginning of the third quarter, they attempted an onside kick that was poorly executed by Dawson because it only traveled 8 of the required 10 yards before bouncing out of bounds. The failed special-teams gamble gave the Ravens possession at the Browns' 38, and Baltimore took a 20-10 lead three plays later. The Browns threatened to mount a late rally, but it was just a false alarm. Reed picked McCoy off in the end zone to seal the Ravens' win.
End 1Q: Browns 7, Ravens 0 -- 1. Seneca Wallace replaced rookie quarterback Colt McCoy for a play and handed off to running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis then pitched the ball to wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brian Robiskie. Robiskie made a diving catch in the end zone while being covered by Ravens cornerback Chris Carr. The Ravens challenged the catch, but it stood after a review. Phil Dawson made the extra-point kick to give the Browns a 7-0 lead with 7:01 left in the first quarter. Instant impressions -- 1. McCoy and Massaquoi were not on the same page during a deep throw near the end zone on the Browns' opening drive. Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb got inside position against Massaquoi and intercepted the pass thrown by McCoy. Either McCoy threw to the wrong spot or Massaquoi was out of position. Then again, it could have been both. 2. The Ravens couldn't capitalize on their early interception. The Browns held the Ravens' offense to a three-and-out on its first possession. 3. Massaquoi became the first non-quarterback to throw a touchdown for the Browns since Sept. 8, 2002, when Kevin Johnson completed a 33-yard scoring strike to fellow wide receiver Quincy Morgan.
End 2Q: Ravens 13, Browns 10 -- 1. Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff made a 27-yard field goal to trim Baltimore's deficit to 7-3 with 13:35 left in the second quarter. 2. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco connected with wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 11:47 left in the second quarter. Houshmandzadeh beat safety Abram Elam and cornerback Sheldon Brown in coverage in the back of the end zone. Cundiff made the PAT to give Baltimore a 10-7 lead. 3. Cundiff made a 40-yard field goal with 4:06 left in the second quarter, giving the Ravens a 13-7 lead. 4. Browns kicker Phil Dawson made a 30-yard field goal with three seconds left before halftime, trimming Cleveland's deficit to 13-10. Instant impressions -- 1. Massaquoi threw a touchdown pass, but he was involved in each of the Browns' three first-half turnovers. He caught a 3-yard pass from McCoy and fumbled. His turnover allowed the Ravens to start their first touchdown drive at the Browns' 20-yard line. Massaquoi was also targeted on both of McCoy's interceptions. The second time, McCoy was picked off by Ravens safety Ed Reed. The Ravens capitalized on that takeaway by marching 28 yards to set up Cundiff's second field goal. McCoy is having a rough day against one of the league's elite defenses. 2. The Browns have resurrected their Wildcat offense. Wallace has lined up at wide receiver, and Josh Cribbs has taken a couple of direct snaps. Cribbs ran for 5 yards and a first down the first time the Browns ran the Wildcat. The second time, Cribbs ran for 3 yards and a first down. 3. The Browns cut the Ravens' advantage to three points, but they also missed an opportunity to try for more. The coaching staff wasted about 40 seconds after running back Mike Bell gained 1 yard to the Ravens' 24. Instead of using a timeout, the Browns let the clock run. In the end, it haunted them because with six seconds left, they had to kick a field goal on third down instead of taking another shot at the end zone. This is the second week in a row the Browns' offense has looked unorganized at the end of the first half. They went into the locker room at halftime with two unused timeouts.
End 3Q: Ravens 20, Browns 10 -- 1. Flacco completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Derrick Mason with 13:30 left in the third quarter. Cundiff made the PAT to give the Ravens a 20-10 lead. Instant impressions -- 1. The Browns attempted an onside kick to open the second half. Rookie Joe Haden let the ball go out of bounds, but it didn't travel 10 yards. Therefore, the Ravens were granted possession at the Browns' 38-yard line. 2. It didn't take long for Baltimore to capitalize on its good field position. The Ravens continued to pick on Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown. He was called for pass interference, but the Ravens declined the penalty because Mason caught Flacco's touchdown pass anyway. Brown has not performed well today. 3. Hillis was in and out of the lineup in the first half, perhaps a sign his injured left knee was bothering him. He has been much more involved with the offense in the third quarter, though Bell is still getting carries. 4. The Browns finally recorded a takeaway when Haden picked off a pass Flacco intended for wide receiver Anquan Boldin. 5. McCoy rolled out and threw deep toward the end zone, but his pass fell incomplete when cornerback Josh Wilson swatted the arms of wide receiver Demetrius Williams. The Browns failed to make the Ravens pay for their first turnover.
End 4Q: Ravens 20, Browns 10 -- 1. No scoring. Instant impressions -- 1. The Browns' defense stepped up and got off the field with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. On third-and-6 at the Ravens' 41, Flacco rolled right when he couldn't find an open target, and Haden closed in on him and delivered a hit. Flacco fumbled and the ball rolled out of bounds, forcing the Ravens to punt. 2. Browns tight end Benjamin Watson limped off the field with 8:39 left in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a left ankle injury, but he returned to action a few plays later. 3. On second-and-10 from the Ravens' 27, McCoy threw his third interception of the game. Once again, Massaquoi was the intended receiver, but it never reached him. Reed recorded his second interception of the game. 4. This past week, Mangini said McCoy would need to be constantly aware of Reed because he's one of the best safeties in the NFL. Still, McCoy lost track of Reed again. This was the worst game of McCoy's professional career.
Top storylines -- 1. Coach Eric Mangini is running out of time to impress Browns President Mike Holmgren. Holmgren has said he will decide Mangini's fate at the end of the season, and the team's regular-season finale is Jan. 2. 2. Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy will face the Ravens for the first time. Baltimore has one of the best defenses in the NFL, so it will present another great test for McCoy. 3. In Week 3, running back Peyton Hillis had his breakout performance as a member of the Browns when he ran for 144 yards against the Ravens. This time, the Ravens are gunning for Hillis. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis predicted Hillis won't come close to duplicating his success from earlier this season.
Inactive players -- Browns: WR Jordan Norwood, QB Jake Delhomme (listed as the team's third quarterback), WR Carlton Mitchell, LB Eric Alexander, DL Brian Sanford, DL Ko Quaye, TE Robert Royal and DL Jayme Mitchell. Ravens -- WR David Reed, S Tom Zbikowski, FB Jason McKie, LB Jason Phillips, DT Arthur Jones, TE Davon Drew, TE Todd Heap and DT Lamar Divens.
Lineup changes -- Browns: David Bowens will start in place of Eric Barton at inside linebacker; Jason Trusnik will start in place of Bowens at outside linebacker. Ravens -- Ed Dickson will start in place of Heap at tight end.