Here’s what The Baltimore Sun sports staff had to say immediately after the Ravens’ 33-31 loss to the visiting Cleveland Browns in Sunday’s Week 10 game at M&T Bank Stadium.
Brian Wacker: The Ravens were on the verge of another blowout. Then their self-inflicted wounds set in, much the way they did against the Colts and Steelers earlier this season.
First there was Lamar Jackson’s interception at the Browns’ 37-yard line with under a minute to play in the first half. Jackson didn’t put enough on the throw, he said, and that halted any chance of the Ravens adding to their 17-3 lead. But the real dagger was his tipped pass to fullback Patrick Ricard in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown by cornerback Greg Newsome II. Despite trailing by one, 31-30, after the missed extra point attempt, the Browns looked poised to climb all the way back.
Another special teams snafu also proved costly, with Justin Tucker’s 55-yard field goal try with 2:27 left in the second quarter blocked. That gave the ball back to the Browns, who turned it into what turned out to be a critical three points.
There were other curious decisions, notably running back Keaton Mitchell getting just one touch in the second half after a 39-yard touchdown run and a 32-yard catch-and-run in the first half. Coach John Harbaugh said that’s just the way the game went and Mitchell said he’s not complaining about the lack of touches, but it was odd to go away from a player who has emerged as a significant weapon over the past two weeks.
Lastly, the Ravens have to find a way to close out games. Blowing leads of 24-9 and 31-17 in the second half is unacceptable, no matter what.
Mike Preston: This loss proved the Ravens can’t be trusted, not yet anyway. It’s way too early to conclude this team has reached its peak and it showed Sunday. The offense couldn’t find its rhythm and the defense couldn’t get off the field in the fourth quarter when the outcome was still in doubt. There is a lot of room for improvement and two months for this team to get better before the postseason.
Jacob Calvin Meyer: Nothing like a fourth-quarter collapse to really ruin a Sunday afternoon, eh? It appeared as if the Ravens were going to win their fifth straight game and improve to 8-2. Instead, it was another late collapse. For the third time this season, the Ravens have let what seemed like a sure win slip through their fingers. However, the last time Baltimore had a loss like this, it ripped off four straight wins. The Ravens have the opportunity to start another streak Thursday night against the Bengals.
C.J. Doon: A game that started out with so much promise thanks to Kyle Hamilton’s stunning pick-six ended with so much frustration. The injuries to cornerback Marlon Humphrey and left tackle Ronnie Stanley loom large, not just for a short week of preparation for the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals on “Thursday Night Football,” but the rest of the season. This Ravens team is aiming for the top seed in the conference and a trip to the Super Bowl, after all.
But Baltimore sure didn’t look like a title contender Sunday. How does this Ravens defense allow this Browns offense to score 24 of the game’s final 31 points? Deshaun Watson looked hobbled all game after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury in the first quarter, and yet he might have outplayed Lamar Jackson. Watson even broke away from what looked like a sure tackle to help move the chains on the Browns’ final drive.
The Ravens have been so successful grinding down opponents with their running game to seal wins this season, which makes that pick-six on a batted ball with 8:16 to go so frustrating. Rookie sensation Keaton Mitchell also got just three carries — and just one touch in the second half — despite averaging 11.3 yards per attempt.
But what’s really shocking is the performance of a Ravens defense that couldn’t get off the field in the second half, allowing back-to-back 75-yard touchdown drives and a methodical 12-play, 58-yard march that set up Dustin Hopkins’ game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired. If not for a muffed punt by former Ravens wideout James Proche early in the fourth quarter, it could have been even worse.
Tim Schwartz: Ah, the AFC North. It doesn’t seem to matter what the records are, these games are always a dogfight. A pick-six for each of the NFL’s best defenses? Check. Fumbles caused by massive defenders clamping down on quarterbacks? Check. Wild swings that nobody expected? Check. The Ravens letting another opponent back in the game in the second half? Check.
This was the Ravens of old (at least earlier this season, before they seemingly turned a corner and stopped playing down to opponents), and they will lament giving away a home game they seemed to have won in the first quarter. All they can do is move on quickly to prepare for Thursday night’s prime-time battle against a Bengals team that was stunned by the Texans on Sunday.