Winning is never easy for the Cleveland Browns. This time, the game took some bizarre bounces in the final seconds, and required an overtime period before the Browns could claim victory.
Relying on the wisdom emerging from a discussion amongst the officiating crew late in the game, the Browns tied the contest on a 51-yard Phil Dawson field goal with no time remaining on the clock. Strangely, the ball caromed off the left upright, hit the field goal support beam behind the crossbar, and then bounced back out into the end zone.
As the Ravens celebrated an apparent come-from-behind victory, a mass of Cleveland players immediately protested that the kick was good. After a meeting of the officiating minds, the kick was ruled to have crossed the crossbar, sending the Browns to their second overtime contest in the past three games. Cleveland's offense methodically marched downfield in the extra frame and Phil Dawson nailed a 33-yard field goal at the 9:10 mark to enable the Browns to leave Baltimore with a 33-30 victory.
This game proved to be another eventful chapter in the revival of the Browns. As has been customary for this Cleveland team, the defense veered close to collapse in the second half, while the offense came together late in the game to send this penalty-filled contest into an extra session.
Baltimore starting quarterback Kyle Boller led a second-half charge, rallying the Ravens from thirteen points down, to put Baltimore into position to win for the first time in almost a month. Wasting Boller's heroics, the Ravens vaunted defense was unable to stop the Cleveland offense when it mattered most.
For the first 30 minutes of play Sunday in Baltimore, the Cleveland Browns defensive unit did their best impression of the Ravens defense. Holding the offensively challenged Ravens to a handful of yards and no points, the Browns led 13-7 at the half, with the Ravens score coming off Ray Lewis' 35-yard interception return of an errant Derek Anderson toss across the middle.
Some Notes and Quick Analysis:
- Running back Jamal Lewis should find a way to mentally prepare as if every opponent were the Baltimore Ravens. Running hard and getting a bounce in his step, Lewis was very solid on the afternoon and provided the Cleveland offense a threat in the rushing game, which was the difference maker on this day.
- As the season progresses, the Browns are becoming increasingly aggressive on defense, playing more physically, and with a more aggressive scheme. Believing they could rattle Boller, the defense attacked the line of scrimmage, which in turn helped slow the Baltimore offense and resulted in three turnovers.
- Nose tackle Ethan Kelley played exceptionally well in this game. His brute strength was on display as he fought off the guard and center, providing defensive end Robaire Smith with the opportunity to collapse the pocket on numerous occasions throughout the game.
- The Browns' corners played a more aggressive zone against the Ravens and often went to man coverage. The defensive effort was lively, and the team was challenged when Boller got into a rhythm in the second-half. An area of disappointment was when Baltimore wide receiver Devon Darling got behind cornerback Leigh Bodden for a touchdown, when safety Brodney Pool was late in coverage.
- While the Browns sent safeties and corners into the blitz package, it was disappointing to see the linebackers being stonewalled by the Ravens offensive linemen and running backs. A lack of quickness with the inside linebackers is the reason for the lack of success up the gut.
- One difference in the way both halves of this game played out. In the first half, the Ravens were in third and long consistently and the Cleveland defense was aggressive. In the second half, the Ravens found success with the quick outs to the receivers, which in turn allowed the rushing game to come to life. This plays on weaknesses in the Browns linebacking corps: the inside linebackers lack quickness and the outside linebackers often run themselves out of the play.
- Crowd noise created problems for the Browns offensive linemen. Numerous false-start penalties put the offense in a hole throughout the game, with the hard-running of Jamal Lewis and the timely passing of Anderson required to overcome the issue.
- Despite the penalties and Baltimore blitzing scheme, the Cleveland offensive line performed well giving Anderson enough time to throw. While the right side of the line had some shaky moments, Anderson appeared again to focus on getting rid of the football, much like he did against the Steelers one week ago.
- Rookie Brandon McDonald played well as the third defensive back on the field following Eric Wright's knee sprain early in the game.