CLEVELAND: As middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson read a copy of the box score in the Browns’ locker room Sunday night, rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard turned to Jackson and asked him to rattle off the Baltimore Ravens’ rushing statistics.
Jackson told Sheard the ugly truth: 55 carries for 290 yards. Sheard responded by conceding that Jackson had predicted the Browns would encounter an absurd amount of carries against their AFC North rivals.
In other words, the Browns (4-8) knew what was coming. Still, they couldn’t avoid being dominated by the Ravens (9-3) in an embarrassing, 24-10 loss on a cold, rainy evening at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“It’s a pride thing right there — when you know it’s coming and you’re not stopping it,” Sheard said.
Ravens running back Ray Rice had 29 carries for a career-high 204 yards (7.0 average) and a touchdown. Ricky Williams, Rice’s backup, finished with 16 carries for 76 yards (4.8 average) and a touchdown.
“This is our worst performance as far as stopping the run since I’ve been here,” Jackson said. “It’s embarrassing. I don’t like it. It’s a nasty taste in my mouth.”
On the other hand, the Browns’ offense didn’t exactly do anything worthy of praise. The lumps it took were more noteworthy than its production.
Quarterback Colt McCoy injured his right knee in the first quarter when Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones dived into his legs and dragged him down. McCoy only missed one offensive snap and said he thinks he’ll be “all right.” Trainers worked on running back Peyton Hillis in the third quarter, though coach Pat Shurmur said he believes Hillis was dealing with soreness and did not re-injure his left hamstring.
McCoy connected with tight end Evan Moore for a 22-yard touchdown with 4:22 left in the fourth quarter. But by then, the majority of the sparse home crowd had already departed, and the stadium resembled a ghost town.
The Ravens put an exclamation point on their victory when Lardarius Webb returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown with 6:58 left in the fourth quarter. The Ravens took a 24-3 lead and coasted to the finish.
Despite their inept performances, the Browns were actually in striking distance midway through the third quarter.
The Browns cut their deficit to 10-3 when Phil Dawson made a 21-yard field goal with 5:55 left in the third quarter. McCoy’s 52-yard pass to Hillis gave the Browns a first down at the Ravens’ 5. But the Browns had to settle for Dawson’s kick after a pass went through the hands of Moore in the back of the end zone on second down, and safety Bernard Pollard broke up a pass to rookie wide receiver Greg Little in the back of the end zone on third down.
“I just didn’t catch it,” Moore said. “I’ve got to make those plays. There is no question.”
The Ravens fired back immediately after Dawson’s field goal. On first-and-10 at the Ravens’ 27, Rice broke off the longest run of his career, a 67-yard gain. Two plays later, Williams rushed for a 1-yard touchdown run, helping the Ravens capture a 17-3 advantage with 4:56 left in the third quarter.
“They beat us in the trenches,” defensive lineman Scott Paxson said. “That’s what it came down to. [Rice is] a great back. He has great vision. The line blocked well. They kicked our butt up front.”
Despite missing two field goals, the Ravens earned a 10-0 halftime lead by punishing the Browns on the ground. In the first half, Rice had 17 carries for 107 yards (6.3 average) and a touchdown, a 6-yard run with 13:17 left in the second quarter, and Williams had six carries for 43 yards (7.2 average).
The Browns, however, couldn’t create any momentum after the Ravens’ missed field goals. Instead of running out the clock after the second miss, the Browns kept throwing.
McCoy’s pass intended for wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi was intercepted by rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith along the sideline. Five plays later, the Ravens settled for Billy Cundiff’s 21-yard field, which he made to extend the Ravens’ lead to 10-0 with 13 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Browns flirted with rallying in the second half, but that was short-lived. The Browns have allowed an opposing player to rush for more than 100 yards eight times this season, and Rice’s outburst was too much to overcome.
Now the Browns have a quick turnaround. They’ll visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.
“We got whooped,” Jackson said. “We got a lot of work to do on stopping this run. It’s not getting any easier.
“Now we’re in the division. So it was a slap in the face today.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://browns.ohio.com. Follow the Browns at www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns.