Cleveland was poised to go into the first half with a 6-0 shutout. They faced a 3rd-and-1 heading into the two-minute warning. They tried a halfback pass that went for a loss of eight yards, and punted. Baltimore scored two touchdowns in two minutes, and another to begin the third quarter. Ballgame — and Cleveland is officially eliminated from playoff contention, with their record now at 6-9 on the season. Let’s get into how the 31-15 loss unfolded in more detail.
The Browns received the ball to begin the game and had a decent drive to get them near midfield before having to punt. When the Ravens busted a 27-yard run by RB Mark Ingram on their first play, it looked like it was going to be a long day. Later in the drive, just beyond field goal range, QB Lamar Jackson’s fourth down pass was incomplete, leading to a turnover on downs.
Cleveland’s next drive started with a 22-yard catch-and-run by WR Odell Beckham, but then a taunting penalty brought 15 of those yards back. Once again, Cleveland got to near midfield before having to punt. On the Ravens’ second drive, after picking up a few first downs, there was a muffed exchange between Jackson and Ingram, and DL Porter Gustin immediately jumped on the fumble.
Cleveland capitalized, thanks to three penalties by the Ravens’ defense that kept the drive alive on separate occasions for Cleveland. On 1st-and-goal from the 1 yard line, QB Baker Mayfield found TE Demetrius Harris for a touchdown to give Cleveland a 6-0 lead. K Austin Seibert shanked the extra point.
Cleveland’s defense kept holding the Ravens’ offense, stunningly. After a Ravens punt, Cleveland’s fourth drive of the game went backwards with an offensive holding penalty and a false start. Backed up in their own territory, Cleveland had to go conservative before punting back to Baltimore.
Baltimore again had to punt on their next drive, but P Sam Koch’s coffin corner pinned Cleveland back to the 3 yard line. On the first play, Mayfield tried going deep for Beckham. The two nearly connected on the bomb, but CB Marcus Peters did a great job of breaking it up at the last millisecond. On third down, Cleveland got out of danger territory with a first down throw to WR Jarvis Landry. Later in the drive, though, Cleveland got cute on 3rd-and-1 heading into the two-minute warning, handing it to RB Kareem Hunt from the side and he was blown up for a loss of eight yards (it might have been a play where he throws the ball).
After the punt, the Ravens got the ball with 1:50 to go. Despite having no timeouts, they struck quickly through the air — 24 yards to Ingram over the middle, and then finding TE Mark Andrews wide open for a 37-yard touchdown pass. The extra point by K Justin Tucker put Baltimore ahead 7-6 with 1:18 to play in the half, and the Browns having two timeouts.
Cleveland went three-and-out with three straight incompletions that were tipped, so no time came off the clock when Baltimore got it back with 1:02 to go in the half. He again found Andrews wide open on first down for a 24-yard gain to midfield. A 14-yard swing pass to a running back put Baltimore in field goal range with 0:27 left. Then WR Seth Roberts caught a 12-yard pass with 0:22 left. Roberts caught another 11 yard pass, now at the 14 yard line with 0:15 left. And of course, Jackson found Andrews over the middle for the touchdown, giving Baltimore a 14-6 lead. What a disastrous two minutes it was for the Browns to end the half.
The Ravens received the opening kickoff of the second half. While Baltimore struck quick to end the first half, they took their time in the third quarter, putting together a 13-play, 69-yard drive that lasted 7:24. The drive ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Ingram, putting Baltimore up 21-6.
The Browns began their second half drive with effective runs from RB Nick Chubb. As they got toward long field goal range, it looked as though Mayfield was intercepted by LB L.J. Fort on a screen pass with several fakes built into it, but replay overturned the ball as the ball hit the ground. Cleveland still had to settle for a 47-yard field goal by Seibert, making it a 21-9 game with 3:25 to go in the third quarter. That field goal was offset by the Ravens’ next drive, where they ate more clock and kicked a 31-yard field goal to make it a 24-9 game with 11:32 to go in the fourth quarter.
Mayfield came out dealing on the next drive, with tight-window throws to Landry and Seals-Jones, both of whom held on despite contact. The Browns had 1st-and-goal from the 1 yard line and it looked like they had turned it over on downs, but a facemask penalty on fourth down gave Cleveland second life. On 1st-and-goal from the 3 yard line, Mayfield found Beckham for the touchdown on a fade, making it 24-15 with 8:01 to go.
Cleveland went for two and had the right play call, but Seals-Jones didn’t get his hands up soon enough to catch the quick hitter, keeping it a two-possession game. It didn’t matter, as Baltimore ran the ball with ease on their next drive, eventually getting an 18-yard touchdown run from RB Justice Hill to make it a 31-15 game with 3:39 to go.
Mayfield faced pressure during the drive and tried chucking it downfield, but the pass was intercepted. Baltimore ran out the clock after that.
What’s funny is that everything that Cleveland needed to go their way to stay alive in the wildcard race*, happened — except for the Browns; a win either against Arizona or Baltimore would’ve given them a very legitimate chance in Week 17, but that’s all for nothing now; they are eliminated from playoff contention. Now, they’re just fighting to get to the same number of wins as last year (but they’re guaranteed to finish with a worse record).
*Pending outcome of TEN-NO.
- QB Baker Mayfield: 20-of-33 for 192 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT.
- RB Nick Chubb: 15 carries, 45 yards (3.0 YPC).
- WR Odell Beckham: 4 catches, 44 yards (6 targets). 1 TD.
- WR Jarvis Landry: 7 catches, 74 yards (8 targets).