CLEVELAND: Cornerback Joe Haden cursed and abruptly ended an interview in the locker room Sunday night after the Browns’ 25-15 loss to the Baltimore Ravens because he grew tired of being asked about wide receiver Torrey Smith’s go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
The Browns entered the weekend full of swagger and optimism. But they left Cleveland Browns Stadium despondent and angry, as evidenced by the usually upbeat Haden lashing out in frustration.
“That’s been the tale of the season so far,” middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “We get so close, and we start the week off with so much confidence, and for whatever reason when the game’s on the line, whether it’s defensively, offensively, we can’t seem to make that play.
“You come so close. I’m tired of coming close and not getting over the hump. I’ve had my fair share of close ballgames and not pulling them out, just being fed up with it.”
The Browns (2-7) had plenty of chances to upset the Ravens (6-2) and win their third consecutive home game, but they’ll limp into their bye week void of momentum. Haunted by several miscues, the Browns wasted a stellar performance by rookie running back Trent Richardson, who finished with 25 carries for 105 yards (4.2 average) and six catches for 31 yards. They are now 0-10 against the Ravens since coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco joined the defending AFC North champions in 2008.
“It’s a feeling I know I’m tired of, and I know my teammates are tired of,” said wide receiver Greg Little, who had five catches for a team-high 52 yards. “It’s something that we have to find one thing to get better at. Somebody’s got to do just one thing more to pull out that win.”
On third-and-6 at the Ravens’ 18-yard line, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden connected with rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon for a touchdown on a slant route with 9:29 left in the fourth quarter, though the score was wiped out by an illegal formation penalty. Backup running back Chris Ogbonnaya didn’t line up far enough behind line of scrimmage and was counted as the eighth man on the line. Ogbonnaya tried to move back, but it was too late.
“It’s frustrating because obviously it nullified a touchdown, which is a big play in that game,” Ogbonnaya said. “When you have opportunities to score in this league, you have to score. Period, point blank.”
During its broadcast, CBS showed new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam rocking back in his chair and covering his face with his left hand after the crucial penalty. The Browns then settled for Phil Dawson’s fifth field goal of the game, a 41-yard attempt, and captured a 15-14 lead with 8:48 remaining. They failed to score a touchdown in five trips to the red zone.
“We had a chance,” said Weeden, who completed 20-of-37 passes for 176 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. “We put ourselves in position. We just couldn’t finish.”
The Browns’ defense allowed rushing touchdowns — Ray Rice for 8 yards and Bernard Pierce for 12 — on each of the Ravens’ first two possessions of the game. However, Haden, Jackson and the rest of the defense dominated for the majority of the game. Starting in the second quarter, the Browns forced six consecutive three-and-outs and gave up only 4 yards in the second half until it all came crashing down.
On second-and-8 from the Ravens’ 42, strong safety T.J. Ward was penalized for roughing the passer because the officials accused him of hitting Flacco above the neck, a claim Ward disputed after the game. The penalty seemed to deflate the defense, and Flacco connected with Smith for a 19-yard touchdown six plays later. On third-and-10 at the Browns’ 19, Smith ran a short in route, caught Flacco’s pass at the 14, used a spin move to get away from Haden and sprinted into the end zone. The Ravens went ahead 22-15 with a 2-point conversion by Anquan Boldin.
“When he broke inside, I was coming down to make sure he didn’t get the first down,” Haden said before losing his cool with reporters. “He spun out on me. I took a bad angle, and he made a really good move.”
During the ensuing drive, coach Pat Shurmur chose to go for it instead of calling for a punt on fourth-and-2 at the Browns’ 28 with 3:53 remaining, and Weeden’s pass to Little on a slant route was off target and fell incomplete. The Ravens then tacked on Justin Tucker’s 43-yard field goal with 2:49 left.
Shurmur, who had two timeouts left and the two-minute warning to work with, became defensive when questioned about his decision on fourth down.
“Had we converted it and we moved forward, then it would have been talked about on what a gutsy move it was,” Shurmur said. “Right?”
But the Browns didn’t convert, capitalize on their opportunities or secure what could have been a breakthrough victory. They weren’t happy about it, either.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.