Bird isn’t the word
CLEVELAND – It took some fourth-down magic, a special-teams blunder and a Willis Reed-like performance by quarterback Jason Campbell.
It all blended together to cook up a recipe the Browns used to defeat the Baltimore Ravens, 24-18, and end an 11-game losing streak to the Ravens dating back to the 2007 season.
“It’s nice because it has been a long time for us,” Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas said of the win Sunday at First Energy Stadium. “Probably 90 percent of the guys in this room have been a Brown for a couple of years, so I don’t think they understand the gravity and the length. The people that understand it are (linebacker) D’Qwell (Jackson), myself and the fans.”
Thomas and Jackson are the only two players on the Browns’ roster that were on the team that defeated the Ravens twice in 2007. Most of the other players were playing on high school fields throughout the country.
Now that they’ve all tasted victory against the defending Super Bowl champion, the appetite for bigger and better things is sure to develop. At 4-5 the Browns are two games behind the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North Division. The Ravens are 3-5 and the Pittsburgh Steelers fell to 2-6 with a loss Sunday.
With back-to-back games against the Bengals and Steelers up next after a bye, it’s not out of realm of possibility for the Browns to challenge for the division title.
“It’s too early to say (how big this win is),” Jackson said. “I’ll tell you that down the road when we win a few more games and we’ll see the significance of this win. For now, we know we’re in the hunt. That’s all we can do at this point in time.”
The Browns prevailed despite having Campbell play most of three quarters with sore ribs after being hit by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. X-rays were taken after the game. Campbell doesn’t think he broke any bones, but he admitted to being sore.
Campbell’s gutsy effort didn’t match the drama of Reed’s memorable performance for the New York Knicks in a 1970 NBA Game 7 playoff contest against the Los Angeles Lakers, but there were elements of it.
“It was extremely hard,” Campbell said of continuing after being hurt. “I tried to do the best that I could in order to help the guys around me. I kept telling them to just give me time because my ribs were really bothering me. I really wanted to cut it loose and it was kind of grabbing me.”
Campbell didn’t need to cut it loose on a fourth-and-1 call from the Ravens’ 43 late in the fourth quarter. Rushed from the pocket, Campbell ran towards the right sideline. He found receiver Davone Bess coming back for the ball and hit him just beyond the first-down marker.
The Browns picked up another first down to further eat away at the clock. Billy Cundiff kicked a 22-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining to seal the win.
“It’s a big win for our organization and our guys in the locker room,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “We were able to make plays when we needed to on offense, defense and special teams. Everybody had a hand in the victory.”
The Browns, who led the entire way, received an assist when Tandon Doss fumbled a punt in the third quarter. Eric Martin recovered the ball for the Browns at the Ravens’ 11.
Two plays later Campbell threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gary Barnidge, who was wide open in the right flat. Cundiff’s point-after kick gave the Browns a 21-10 lead.
It was Campbell’s third touchdown pass of the game, including a pair to Bess. Campbell was 23 of 35 for 262 yards with no interceptions for a passer rating of 116.6.
The Ravens made it close when quarterback Joe Flacco threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Brown early in the fourth quarter. Flacco then connected with Brown for the extra two points to cut the Browns’ lead to 21-18.
After the teams exchanged punts, the Browns constructed a 15-play drive that led to Cundiff’s field goal. The drive consumed 6:30 of time.
“We’ve got to get off the field,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We play good defense the whole game, for the most part, but we’re not good enough to get that stop, and we have to get that stop.”
The Browns struck first on a 1-yard touchdown catch by Bess on fourth-and-goal. Campbell connected with Greg Little for 32 yards to the Ravens’ 34 on the 80-yard drive.
The Ravens made it 7-3 on their next possession on a 51-yard field goal by Justin Tucker.
Bess came up big again in the second quarter, catching a Campbell pass on a short crossing route and going 20 yards for a touchdown. He put a great fake of Ladarius Webb near the 15.
The Browns’ defense was dominant for most of the game, pressuring Flacco into an ordinary performance – 24 of 41 for 250 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Ravens running back Ray Rice was ineffective, gaining just 17 yards on 11 carries.
The Ravens picked up the pace late in the second quarter when Flacco found Torrey Smith wide open for 46 yards on a third-and-8 play. There appeared to be miscommunication in coverage, which allowed Smith to find an open area and take the ball to the Browns’ 19.
Two plays later Flacco connected with Brown on a crossing route just inside the 5. Brown dove into the end zone to cut the Browns’ lead to 14-10 at halftime.
The Browns play in Cincinnati Nov. 17.