It was a Murphy’s Law kind of day for the Cleveland Browns’ offense against the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC North Division battle at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore Sunday.
From poor passes being converted into interceptions to points off of turnovers and backup quarterback Kevin Hogan being pressed into service when starting quarterback DeShone Kizer was pulled from the game because of migraines in the second quarter, just about everything that could go wrong did for the Browns.
And the home team turned those miscues into late second-quarter points from which the Browns (0-2) were unable to recover on the way to a 24-10 loss to the Ravens (2-0).
The Ravens and Browns traded punts over the first two drives of the game, but on Cleveland’s second possession, Kizer held onto the ball too long and had an up-close-and-personal meeting with Baltimore outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
As he has on most of his meetings with quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage throughout his prolific career, Suggs got the best of Kizer and forced a fumble on the sack that the Ravens recovered at Cleveland’s 33-yard line.
Seven plays later, former Browns running back Terrance West rushed for a four-yard touchdown, which gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead with 3:56 to play in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Kizer moved the Browns from their own 25-yard line out to Baltimore’s 26, but on a swing pass to running back Duke Johnson, he was intercepted by longtime NFL safety Eric Weddle at the line of scrimmage.
Although the Browns got the ball back on an interception just four plays later, they failed to capitalize on the turnover and again, punted to the Ravens.
Then, Baltimore used chunk plays to move the ball down the field, getting a 12-yard run from West, and later, a 20-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to former Browns tight end Benjamin Watson. On the very next snap, Flacco went back to Watson for a 23-yard gain.
Two plays later, Flacco took a snap on second and six, rolled out to his right and despite the passing lane being clogged with several Browns defenders, fired a nine-yard touchdown pass to running back Javorius Allen for a 14-0 lead.
Into the game for Kizer, Hogan engineered a five-play, 83-yard drive and capped it off with a 23-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end David Njoku, which cut Baltimore’s lead down to a single score, 14-7, with 4:56 to play in the first half.
Hogan used a play-action fake to freeze the defenders, stepped up in the pocket when pressure came from the strong side and muscled a pass into the end zone. After running an out-and-up route down the sideline, Njoku caught the ball while falling to the ground near the sideline for his first career touchdown.
Although the Browns cut into Baltimore’s lead, the Ravens took advantage of another Browns miscue and added onto their advantage before heading to the locker room for halftime.
With 1:01 remaining in the second quarter, Baltimore attempted a 58-yard field goal that was wide right, which gave Cleveland possession of the football at its own 48-yard line. However, Baltimore ratcheted up the defensive pressure and forced another Browns mistake.
After intercepting Hogan with just 19 seconds to play, the Ravens got a 37-yard run from Allen down to the Cleveland 2-yard line, and then, Flacco briefly rolled to his right and threw a touchdown pass to veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin.
A replay review confirmed the call of touchdown, and the Ravens took a 21-7 lead into the halftime break.
The Browns tallied the lone score of the third quarter, a 38-yard field goal from rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez, but the Ravens got those three points back and took a 24-10 lead when Justin Tucker converted a 28-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth.
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