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Ravens eliminate Browns from playoff contention

By MARY KAY CABOT • Dec 22, 2019 at 4:27 PM

CLEVELAND — Freddie Kitchens didn’t help himself with some poor play-calling during Sunday’s 31-15 loss to the Ravens.

The loss at FirstEnergy Stadium, which dropped the Browns to 6-9 in their home finale, also ensured that the Cleveland will have a losing season for the 19th time in 21 seasons since their rebirth in 1999.

The Ravens, in winning their 11th straight game since they lost to the Browns 40-25 eons ago on Sept. 29 in Baltimore, clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

The best the Browns can do is 7-9 with a victory in the season finale next week in Cincinnati. It also means the Browns will finish with a worse record than they did in 2018, when they went 7-8-1.

That wasn’t supposed to happen in this “Season of Great Expectations”, with the addition of Pro Bowlers such as Odell Beckham Jr., Kareem Hunt and Sheldon Richardson.

Not only was the season a huge disappointment, Baker Mayfield regressed, the offense underperformed all season, and the Browns will finish third in the AFC North — a season in which they were favored by most to win the division.

The Ravens rolled up 481 yards on the Browns’ beaten-down defense, including 243 rushing. Lamar Jackson threw for 238 yards and 3 TDs with no INTs for a 121.0 rating. He also rushed 17 times for 103 yards.

Baker Mayfield threw for 192 yards with 2 picks and 1 INT for a 84.4 rating. Nick Chubb rushed for only 45 yards, and Odell Beckham Jr. caught four passes for 44 yards and a TD.

The Browns finished their home season at 4-4, and the stands were mostly empty midway through the fourth quarter.

The Browns won the toss and took the ball first, but the strategy backfired when they failed to score on the opening drive. What’s more, the Ravens scored twice in the final 1:18 of the half and then again on their opening drive of the third quarter to break open a 21-6 lead.

Austin Seibert kicked a 47-yard field goal to pulled to within 21-9 with 3:25 left in the third.

After the Ravens stunned the Browns with those two last-minute first half TDs, they took it to the Browns again at the start of the third quarter, a 13-play, 69-yard drive that ended in a 12-yard TD catch by Mark Ingram that made it 21-6 with 7:36 left it the third.

Mayfield was apparently picked off on the ensuing drive when he threw an ill-advised pass while getting hit by Matthew Judon, but upon review, it was determined that the ball had hit the ground.

It was the third time Mayfield was almost picked off, with one being nullified by a defensive penalty and the other one hitting the ground. Seibert nailed the 47-yarder after a pass went off KhaDarel Hodge’s hands.

Baltimore increased their lead to 24-9 on a 31-yard field goal by Justin Tucker, but the drive was costly. The Ravens lost starting running back Mark Ingram to an apparent calf injury in a non-contact situation on the drive. He limped to the locker room a short while later.

Beckham Jr. caught a 3-yard TD pass, his third of the season, to cut the Browns deficit to 24-15 with 8:01 left in the game. The two-point conversion pass to Ricky Seals-Jones fell incomplete. Beckham jawed with Kitchens after the failed two-pointer.

Baltimore’s Justice Hill ran in untouched on the right side for an 18-yard touchdown that made it 31-15. The score was preceded by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call on Sheldon Richardson, who argued with officials on the Ravens’ sideline after Sheldrick Redwine was injured.

Jackson threw two touchdown passes to Mark Andrew in the final 1:18 of the half to give the Ravens a 14-6 edge at halftime. The first one was a 39-yarder with 1:18 left on which there was a blown coverage between Damarious Randall and TJ Carrie.

The second was a 14-yarder with nine seconds left in the half on post route, where Andrews got behind Randall in the end zone. Jackson stepped up and fired a perfect pass, and Andrews leaped and caught it.

The two scores came courtesy of some horrible play-calling by Kitchens.

Just before the two-minute warning with the Browns clinging to a 6-0 lead, they faced a third and 1 at their 28. Mayfield flipped the ball to Kareem Hunt, who looked like he might be attempting to throw it on a trick play. Instead, the Ravens sniffed it out and dropped him for an eight-yard loss.

The Ravens took over at their 27 with 1:50 left in the half, and Jackson promptly split linebackers Joe Schobert and Mack Wilson for a 24-yard bullet to Mark Ingram. On the next play, the Browns defensive backs blew the coverage and Andrew was left wide open for the TD.

Mayfield took over with 1:18 left in the half, and threw three straight incompletions, including the first one that went off Damion Ratley’s hands and was almost picked off by safety Chuck Clark.

Clark didn’t get the pick, but he atoned for it by breaking up the next two passes. The three-pass strategy backfired for the Browns as the Ravens got the ball back at their 25 with :55 second left in the half and no timeouts remaining.

Jackson found Andrews for 24 to start the drive, and then Justice Hill for 14 to the Browns’ 37. Two more intermediate completions found Jackson with a first and 10 at the 14, where he stepped up and hit Andrews for the score.

The botched third and 1, coupled with the three straight passes after the first TD, spelled disaster for the Browns.

The Browns had opened the scoring on 1-yard TD catch by Demetrius Harris over Clark on the right side of the end zone to make it 6-0 with 11:53 left in the half. Unfortunately for the Browns, Austin Seibert pushed the extra point wide left.

The TD cashed in on Jackson’s fumble on a botched exchange with Mark Ingram, recovered by Porter Gustin.

In fact, the Ravens bumbled and stumbled their way through the first half until they woke up at the end of it.

They turned the ball over on downs on their opening drive, with Jackson throwing wide for Andrew on the sideline on fourth and 3.

The Jackson fumble came on their second drive, and then Matthew Judon jumped on a Browns’ fourth and 1 to keep the drive alive and move Cleveland to the Ravens’ 18. Mayfield hit Harris in the end zone three pays later

Beckham caught a 22-yard pass on the first play of the Browns second drive, but ruined it with a 15-yard taunting penalty, waving to the Ravens’ bench from close proximity. Beckham has made the same gesture after other big catches this season, but he was too close for comfort this time.

Greg Robinson Robinson committed back-to-back penalties to blow up a second-quarter drive, a holding and a false start.

Up next

The Browns will close out their season next Sunday (Dec. 29) at Cincinnati against the Bengals (1-14), who will pick No. 1 in the NFL Draft in April 2020.

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