The Cleveland Browns first game of the season against Pittsburgh was competitive, but this week against Baltimore was just ugly. Cleveland fell by a final score of 24-10, dropping to 0-2 on the season. How did we get there?
The Browns received the ball to begin the game for the second week in a row. Although their first drive wasn’t as bad as the opener (blocked punt for a touchdown), they still went three-and-out.
The Ravens got some traction on their opening drive, sparked by a 19-yard catch-and-run by WR Jeremy Maclin. After getting into Cleveland territory, QB Joe Flacco was sacked by OLB Christian Kirksey on third down to force a punt.
Cleveland moved the ball near midfield on their next drive, which included LT Joe Thomas’ 10,000th consecutive snap to begin his career.
But after a false start by WR Sammie Coates, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-12, and QB DeShone Kizer held on to the ball too long, leading to a strip+sack for OLB Terrell Suggs and a Baltimore recovery.
Let's watch that Suggs sack again, shall we? pic.twitter.com/WjQsi9RGO0— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 17, 2017
Working with a short field, the Ravens capitalized with a 4-yard touchdown run by RB Terrence West to give Baltimore a 7-0 lead at the 3:56 mark of the first quarter.
Cleveland was put an immediate hole on their next drive due to an offensive pass interference call by WR Kenny Britt, but then on 3rd-and-18, Kizer drilled WR Rashard Higgins for 35 yards down the middle. Cleveland continued to drive, but then facing a 3rd-and-4 from the 26 yard line, Kizer was picked off when his pass to RB Duke Johnson bounced off his hands and into the arms of S Eric Weddle.
On Baltimore’s next drive, Flacco did what he so often does -- just chucks the ball up long and deep carelessly, and that allowed CB Jason McCourty to intercept the pass. He came down at the 9 yard line, though, so it being a long punt wasn’t exactly detrimental to the Ravens.
Cleveland did manage to get out of danger territory before having to punt again. It didn’t matter. Flacco found TE Benjamin Watson for big plays twice in a row. Down inside the red zone, Flacco bootlegged and found RB Javorius Allen for a 9-yard touchdown pass to give the Ravens a 14-0 lead half-way through the second quarter.
In a twist no one saw coming, QB Kevin Hogan entered the game for the Browns’ next series. The announcers learned that Kizer was “questionable to return with a migraine.” Right away, Hogan got off to a great start by hitting TE Seth DeValve for a 49-yard gain.
A few plays later, Hogan drilled TE David Njoku on a beautiful 23-yard touchdown pass to make it a 14-7 game with under five minutes to go in the half.
Cleveland forced a quick punt to get the ball back before the end of the half, but a personal foul by Njoku on the punt return gave them horrible starting field position at their own 7 yard line. After a deep third down drop by Higgins, P Britton Colquitt had to punt from his own end line. He got off a great 54-yard punt, though, followed by holding on Baltimore.
Working in the two-minute drill, Flacco got the ball to the 40 yard line, but the defense held. Baltimore tried a 58-yard attempt with K Justin Tucker with a minute to go in the half, but he missed wide right, giving the Browns great field position and their own one-minute drill with two timeouts. But before long, Hogan was picked, and Baltimore returned it to field goal range.
Baltimore caught Cleveland off guard with a 37-yard draw play down to the 2 yard line with 0:05. The Ravens decided to go for it, and Flacco hit WR Jeremy Maclin for a quick touchdown, giving them a 21-7 lead heading to the half.
Jeremy Maclin's short touchdown catch extends the lead to 21-7 right before halftime. pic.twitter.com/nHYIXdptRB— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 17, 2017
The Browns forced a punt to begin the third quarter after Baltimore had gotten to near mid-field, and Hogan remained under center due to Kizer’s migraine. On 3rd-and-1, Hogan got aggressive and heaved the ball downfield, and Johnson made an incredible one-hand catch for 34 yards.
That was followed by a 17-yard run by RB Isaiah Crowell to get down to the red zone. A couple of misthrows, K Zane Gonzalez hit a 38-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-10 with under two minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Browns did a great job forcing a three-and-out, but P Sam Koch delivered a 63-yard punt that went out of bounds to completely reverse field position for Baltimore again. Kizer then re-entered the game after his migraine had reportedly cleared up. The offense flat out stalled with a three-and-out, though. Colquitt then hit a 67-yard punt of his own, albeit it with a 14-yard return.
Unfortunately, Baltimore successfully went with the running game on their next drive, eating up the rest of the third quarter. Tucker came on to hit a 28-yard field goal to begin the fourth quarter, giving them a 24-10 lead.
Kizer had the Browns on the move with a couple more connections to Higgins, and a 16-yard run by Johnson got Cleveland down to the 3 yard line. On 1st-and-goal, a designed QB run went for a loss of four yards. On second down, Kizer’s pass over the middle for Higgins was behind him and picked off by CB Lardarius Webb in the end zone for a touchback.
With the Ravens driving again and clock draining, all hope looked lost...until CB Jason McCourty forced a fumble in the open field on RB Alex Collins. DT Trevon Coley picked up the loose ball and rumbled 13 yards before fumbling it himself. Cleveland still ended up with the recovery.
Just as that glimmer of hope arrived, it disappeared again, as Kizer threw his third interception of the day on a third down pass that went to CB Brandon Carr. The Browns had another shot in the final seconds, but turned the ball over on downs.
Quick Hitters - Browns
- QB DeShone Kizer: 15-of-31 for 182 yards, 3 INT. 5 rushes, 26 yards, 1 fumble.
- QB Kevin Hogan: 5-of-11 for 118 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 1 rush, 5 yards.
- RB Isaiah Crowell: 10 rushes, 37 yards.
- RB Duke Johnson: 4 rushes, 21 yards. 3 catches, 59 yards.
- WR Rashard Higgins: 7 catches, 95 yards.
- WR Corey Coleman: 1 catch, 9 yards.
- WR Kenny Britt: 1 catch, 2 yards.
- TE David Njoku: 3 catches, 27 yards, 1 TD.
- TE Seth DeValve: 2 catches, 61 yards.
- The feeling I hated about this game is that every time Cleveland got into Ravens territory, my first instinct was to think about what was about to go wrong.
- Bad tackling by the Browns this week, including several misses by S Jabrill Peppers that extended plays. Overall, Cleveland had a good push on many of Baltimore’s running plays, but then fizzled out at points.
- The Browns out-gained the 386 yards to 337 yards. You can’t turn the ball over 5 times and expect the yardage to matter.
- The Ravens averaged 4.25 YPC.
- Linebackers Christian Kirksey and James Burgess had sacks for the Browns. Baltimore registered 4 sacks.