CLEVELAND: Browns quarterback Colt McCoy once again proved his toughness to his teammates, coaches and the team’s fans, finishing Sunday’s game despite being injured in the first quarter.
McCoy hurt his right knee and was replaced by backup Seneca Wallace with about five minutes left in the opening quarter. With Wallace controlling the offense, the drive stalled and the Browns had to punt.
However, McCoy missed just one offensive snap and was back in the game by the time the Browns started their next possession with 13:12 left in the second quarter.
“It’s OK,” McCoy said afterwards. “I just got stunned a little bit. I think we will check it out tomorrow and see. … I was able to play and throwing-wise, it definitely didn’t affect me.”
McCoy suffered the injury when Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones dived into his legs and dragged him down as he threw a pass on second-and-7 from the Browns’ 26-yard line. McCoy’s right knee hit the ground hard as he fell and he had it wrapped in the locker room.
The Ravens defense recorded three sacks and four quarterback hits. McCoy finished with a 63.0 quarterback rating after completing 17-of-35 passes for 192 yards and a late touchdown. His highlight of the game was a 52-yard missile right to the waiting arms of running back Peyton Hillis, who had streaked down the Ravens sideline in the third quarter.
Ready, set, no go
Browns running back Montario Hardesty played for the first time since he tore a muscle in his right calf Oct. 30 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Despite being declared ready to go, Hardesty was in the game for just three snaps and sounded frustrated after the game that his number wasn’t called more.
“Yeah, I thought I would [play more],” he said. “But you know the game just went how it went.”
Asked if he was limited by his calf, Hardesty said the injury was not an issue.
“I was fine,” he insisted. “I was ready to play. I was ready if needed.”
Said coach Pat Shurmur: “We could have used him today. With the short turnaround here [the Browns play the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday night], it might have been smart to keep him ready for Thursday.”
With the Browns being so cautious and saving Hardesty, Hillis got the bulk of the carries against Baltimore, rushing 12 times for just 45 yards with a long gain of nine. But toward the end of the third quarter, trainers were working on Hillis on the sideline, stretching him out on a table.
“I’m sure he’s a little bit sore,” Shurmur said. “We’ll see [today] where he is and how he’s doing.”
While Baltimore ran wild in the game, the Browns managed just 59 yards on the day, despite Hardesty and Hillis playing together for the first time since Oct. 16, when Hillis injured his left hamstring against the Oakland Raiders.
When Shurmur was asked specifically if Hillis’ problem was the hamstring again, he said: “I don’t think it was his hamstring. … I think right now he’s just coming off the field and he’s sore. I wouldn’t say it’s the hamstring, though.”
Hardesty tried to come back from his injury last week, but ended up sitting out the game when his calf bothered him in warm-ups before the Browns’ 23-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Wrong return man
It wasn’t Josh Cribbs returning a punt Sunday afternoon, but Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb who took one to the end zone. With 6:58 left in the game, Webb returned Brad Maynard’s 40-yard punt 68 yards for the Ravens’ special teams score.
“The punter punted it kind of low,” Webb said. “All 10 guys blocked well. We’ve been working on it every week, about everyone getting their man so we can make something happen. It shows how important a punt return is and how you can change a game with it.”
That’s something Cribbs knows well, as Webb’s score put the Ravens up by 21 points, leading 24-3.
“If you erase that touchdown, things are pretty much on our side,” Cribbs said. “But you can’t erase it. … [It’s] very hard [to watch an opponent] do that. It’s frustrating.”
Browns return man/receiver Cribbs visited with some fans before the game, taking some time to walk over to the tailgate area to voice his appreciation for their continued dedication.
“I just wanted to show some love to the fans,” Cribbs said. “I talk to the fans all the time.”
After the game, Cribbs said he understood why there were so many empty seats in the stadium by the fourth quarter.
“It was very tough [to see the stadium so empty at the end of the game],” Cribbs said. “But I understand.”
Cribbs was also disappointed that he wasn’t targeted at all as a wide receiver during the game.
“It’s extremely difficult,’’ Cribbs said. “It’s very difficult to cope with. After every game I look at myself in the mirror and see if I did everything I can to help my team win a game. It’s very hard to cope not being able to control anything or being in a position to create a difference.’’
The following Browns were inactive: quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, safety T.J. Ward (foot), offensive linemen Steve Vallos and Oniel Cousins, tight end Jordan Cameron, linebacker Quinton Spears (hamstring) and defensive end Auston English. The following Ravens were inactive: linebacker Ray Lewis (toe), receivers LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss, cornerbacks Chykie Brown and Chris Carr (back), running back Anthony Allen (thigh) and linebacker Sergio Kindle.
Usama Young started at strong safety for the Browns in place of Ward, who was inactive for the fourth consecutive game with a foot injury.
Dannell Ellerbe started at inside linebacker for the Ravens in place of Lewis, who sat out for the third consecutive game with turf toe.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.