Ravens Defense Stands Tall Despite Jackson’s Four Interceptions
With so much at stake on Sunday night, Ravens, Browns had a playoff like atmosphere. An important AFC North division game for both teams, who will play each other again in two weeks. On one side you had the Cleveland Browns, who sat at 5-5 coming into Sunday night in third place in the AFC North. On the other side the Baltimore Ravens sitting at 7-3, looking to remain in first in the AFC North ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals. Even more importantly after getting some help from the New England Patriots who defeated the Tennessee Titans 36-13 in the early window Sunday, the Ravens took over first place in the AFC.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson returned for the Ravens after missing last week with an illness but looked to improve his previous outing, a 22-10 loss at the hands of the Miami Dolphins.
The Browns came out early offensively looking to assert the pass game. On the fourth play of the drive, Mayfield found his receiver Jarvis Landry for 36-yards down to the Ravens 32 yard line. The drive would stall out however leading to a Chase McLaughlin 46-yard field goal attempt. McLaughlin would miss wide left however keeping the score tied in the early going.
The Ravens looked to take advantage of the early miss, but what has been a common theme this season for the Ravens offense, they would get off to a slow start, failing to provide much offense in the first quarter. A Ravens six play opening drive stalled at their own 47 yard line.
However much like the Ravens the Browns have struggled themselves with first quarter drives failing to move the ball with any purpose.
After both teams exchanged early punts, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens looked to get their first points of the game. After a Browns penalty on fourth down for too many men, the Ravens drive was extended. A 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness against the Browns on second down moved the ball to the Browns 40 yard line. After a five yard pass to Rashad Bateman on third down was short of the first down, Justin Tucker lined up for a 52-yard field goal. With just 29 seconds remaining in the first quarter Tucker connected on his field goal to give the Ravens a 3-0 lead.
Baker Mayfield and the Browns returned to the field looking to get on the scoreboard themselves, but as was the theme for the night the Ravens defense pressured Mayfield leading to errant throws and another Browns punt.
Lamar Jackson looked to keep the momentum on the Ravens side, and the offense did just that. This time a long 17 play drive that took up a total of 8:41 of game time, Jackson used his arm and legs to move the Ravens down to the Browns one yard line. After running back Latavius Murray was stopped for no gain, and Jackson threw incomplete to Ricard on third down. Head coach John Harbaugh left the offense out there on fourth down. But the Ravens wouldn’t get a play off as guard Kevin Zeitler jumped off sides. Instead of a possible fourth down touchdown the Ravens were forced to try a 25-yard Justin Tucker field goal, which was successful giving the Ravens a 6-0 late in the first half.
The Browns were determined to make some plays before the game got any further away. On the first play of their next possession Mayfield found his tight end Harrison Bryant for 41-yards down to the Ravens 34 yard line, the Browns biggest play up to that point. But the Ravens defense didn’t flinch. On the following play Browns receiver Jarvis Landry lined up at quarterback, a common formation that has often been successful for the Browns as Landry has a strong arm for a receiver, while also having the ability to run if the play breaks down. Landry got the snap dropping back to pass after scrambling left and back to his right he looked to run but appeared to pull up to pass just before he passed the line of scrimmage. Rookie Odafe Oweh chased Landry down sacking the Browns receiver jarring the ball loose, for the Ravens first turnover of the night.
Jackson and the Ravens looked to take advantage of the turnover. A 13-yard pass from Jackson to Bateman got the Ravens near midfield. On first down Jackson looked for tight end Mark Andrews, but Batemon was coming on an underneath route hitting him in the hands ricocheting the ball into the air into the waiting arms of Browns cornerback Denzel Ward. Jackson’s first interception of the night.
The Browns looked to take advantage of their best starting field position of the night, and they did just that. Three straight Mayfield passes got the Browns to the Ravens 31 yard line. But after a three yard Nick Chubb run on first down, the Browns would not gain another yard leading to another 46-yard field attempt, the same distance that was missed earlier in the contest. This time McLaughlin was good to give the Browns their first points of the game.
Jackson returned to the field looking to make up for his previous interception. But just as quick as the drive started it ended, Jackson again would be intercepted. This time by safety Grant Delpit.
Once again the the Browns began their drive on the Ravens side of the field looking now to take the lead going into the half. After an incomplete pass, Mayfield dropped back to pass, but was quickly met with pressure from the Ravens. Mayfield lost the ball and a scrum ensued with Oweh coming up from the pile with the ball, giving the ball right back to his offense.
The defense stood strong after two straight Lamar Jackson interceptions. Jackson looked to get back into a groove, finding Sammy Watkins for eight yards on first down. A five yard Jackson run followed by a Marquise Brown eight yard reception got the Ravens down to the Browns 30 yard line with 36 seconds left in the half. After a Villanueva hold on second down pushed the Ravens back, Jackson looked to Andrews again. But a miscommunication between the two would lead to Jackson’s third interception of the half as his throw went right to Browns safety Ronnie Harrison.
A turnover filled second quarter by both teams would end with little damage done to both sides, as the Ravens took a 6-3 lead into the half.
After suffering his worst half as a pro, Jackson came out in the third quarter determined to lead the Ravens to their first touchdown of the night. Likely the biggest play of the night came on the seventh play of the drive. Jackson scrambled right looking down field throwing the ball up to Mark Andrews in single coverage. Ronnie Harrison grabbed Andrews to keep him from catching the ball but with one hand Andrews pulled the ball in pinning it against his body for a contested 39-yard gain. Three plays later Jackson again would find Andrews, once again Jackson scrambled away from pressure keeping the play alive, as he heaved the ball into the end zone finding Andrews wide open as he fell to his knees for the Ravens first touchdown of the night.
The Browns would fail to answer on their first possession of the second half, as the Browns and Ravens traded punts.
With the pressure mounting for the Browns, Mayfield needed to answer the call. On the Browns second possession of the third quarter Mayfield found Landry again for another big play, this time a 38-yard throw and catch to the Ravens 44 yard line. A roughing the passer penalty on Tyus Bowser on second down moved the ball to the Ravens 36 yard line. After a one yard Nick Chubb run Mayfield would find his tight end David Njoku for a 20-yard score. Njoku’s catch came with controversy however, as replay appeared to show the ball hitting the ground before Njoku secured the ball. But after review the call would stand cutting the Ravens lead to three late in the third quarter.
The Ravens following possession would last only four plays before Jackson would be intercepted for the fourth time. A jump ball to Mark Andrews would be picked off by safety John Johnson at the Browns 13 yard line.
With a long field however the Browns would be unable to capitalize on the turnover as they would be forced to punt the ball back to the Ravens.
A three and out by the Ravens followed by a three and out by the Browns, would give the Ravens the ball back with a little over six minutes leading 13-10. The Ravens run game had been efficient against a stout Browns defense, but when the Ravens needed it most they began to wear the Browns down with their rushing attack. An 11 play drive saw the Ravens rush the ball eight times with Jackson and Freeman carrying the load. After a short three yard completion to Marquise Brown on third and long, Tucker connected on a 49-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 16-10 lead with just over a minute remaining. While the Ravens were able to add points, most importantly their 11 play drive took over five minutes off the clock leaving the Browns with very little time and no timeouts.
Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense needed to go 75 yards in one minute with no timeouts. The Ravens defense however has been known this season for allowing big plays late in games to keep their opponents in games. But Sunday night was a different story, after three straight Mayfield incomplete passes in which he faced heavy pressure, the game was on the line as the Browns faced a fourth down. Mayfield dropped back again facing pressure throwing short to his tight end Njoku, Bowser was in great position and tackled Njoku in the open field, short of the first down sealing a Ravens victory. The Ravens first division win of the year.
Although Jackson turned the ball over four times, the Ravens defense stepped up to pick up their quarterback who has done the same for them all season. While the Ravens picked up a big win the schedule will continue to only get harder as games get more meaningful. The Ravens face another tough AFC North matchup next Sunday as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field at 4:25.
Lamar Jackson finished Sunday night with a total QBR of 25.0
Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback since 2013 to throw four interceptions and win the game.
Odafe Oweh became the first rookie this season to record a sack, forced fumble, and record a fumble recovery in the same game.
Patrick Queen led all Ravens with eight tackles, including two tackles for loss.
Browns running back Nick Chubb was held to only 16 yards on eight carries, his lowest total this season.