Ravens 33, Browns 27
In the midst of their 20th and most frustrating NFL season, the Ravens entered last night’s game against the hapless Browns in full rebuilding mode, an expansion team like the Baltimore Stallions thrown together in eight days after losing Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett to season-ending injuries. Practice squad players streaked across the turf. It resembled preseason or that XFL year when players wore name plates like “He Hate Me” across their backs.
Whoever they are, these masked purple marauders played like Ravens. They battled with the fire and angst that’s inside John Harbaugh.
Someone named Kaelin Clay returned a punt for a Ravens touchdown—and when was the last time something like that happened? Towson Tiger and former Brown Terrence West ploughed for meaningful yards. Shareece Wright made some great plays in the secondary. And in his first NFL game, UVA grad Brent Urban lifted his gloved paw to block the game-winning field goal with 3 seconds left.
The new Ravens played their purple hearts out tonight and in the waning seconds it looked like it was going to be another gut-wrenching loss. Late in the fourth, Matt Schaub threw his second interception after recovering from a pick-six in the first half and the Browns moved into position to win the game on a field goal. Prior to that moment the Ravens had played inspired football—not without catastrophic miscues—but full of hustle and determination.
Make no mistake, if you combined the Ravens and the Browns into one team there would still not be enough talent to make the playoffs. Yet John Harbaugh believed in his Ravens offense enough to try a 4th and 1 from his own 29-yard line. It worked and they moved the ball from their own ½ yard line to the Browns 17 before kicking a field goal to extend their lead to 27-20.
They knocked Raven-killer QB Josh McCown out of the game and had his successor Austin Davis on the ropes in a 4th and long situation. Davis converted and led the Browns into the end zone to tie the game at 27. Another painful ending loomed. Most of the team’s seven losses had ended this way—freak penalties, missed calls, costly interceptions, squandered red zone opportunities, and dropped interceptions had led to sudden defeats.
Schaub’s second interception marred what was a rust-filled but competent performance. In the first quarter, it was great seeing Matt Schaub jacked up about his first touchdown pass in more than a year, looking like he was trying to prove something. Then he threw a pick-six to let the Browns back in. His throws lack the zip and distance of Flacco’s balls and that could be a problem moving forward. He did look comfortable for most of the game in Marc Trestman’s offense.
With 1:42 left, Traman Williams jumped Kamar Aiken’s route and made the pick, helping to set up the game-winning kick. It appeared as if Schaub had once again given the game to the opposition.
Another Ravens loss seemed immanent as the ball was snapped. Brent Urban twisted his frame to block it. It squibbed in the direction of Will Hill III who collected it and raced down the sideline for the game-winning touchdown.
Somehow, the Ravens won the game. In a season of bizarre injuries and losses, the Ravens may have turned their season around. Even if they go on to lose more games, you know they will never stop fighting. Whoever they are, these replacements played like Ravens tonight.