Secondary holds up against Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- Although injured starting cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle were sidelined again Sunday, their absence didn't trigger the Baltimore Ravens' secondary being scorched by Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson. If anything, it was a muted effort by the streaky former Baltimore sixth-round draft pick who made the Pro Bowl last year for Cleveland

Anderson completed 17 of 33 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns, but replacement cornerbacks Frank Walker and Fabian Washington held up solidly in a 37-27 victory. Plus, Anderson was intercepted by linebacker Terrell Suggs for a 42-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Browns Pro Bowl wide receiver Braylon Edwards posted a 28-yard touchdown catch when he wrestled the football away from Walker in the end zone, but wound up with four catches for 86 yards. And outspoken tight end Kellen Winslow was limited to five receptions for 64 yards.

Neither came close to breaking the game open with their athleticism.

"We weren't playing, we were serious," Washington said. "We can cover and they know that. They wouldn't have brought us in if we couldn't cover.

"We have two great veterans, but, when we get the opportunity, we'll show you what we can do. It was great to put up a zero on the scoreboard."

With Rolle out until at least next week against the Houston Texans as he missed his sixth game in a row while recovering from neck surgery and McAlister's status in doubt because of a chronic right knee problem, Walker and Washington got the job done.

"Backup corners, Frank and Fabian, for them to play the way they did and not give up the big play, that's two starting corners," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They played the way two starting corners play. Now, we feel like we have four starting corners. That's a tribute to those guys."

Although McAlister will eventually be placed on injured reserve and undergo season-ending surgery, Harbaugh emphasized that decision hasn't been determined yet. McAliste, who didn't make the trip to Cleveland, is scheduled to consult another second-opinion doctor today, according to Harbaugh.

"I don't want to speculate on that yet," Harbaugh said. "Chris is doing everything he can to get that knee right. He is fighting to come back to play and we want him to come back and play."

Meanwhile, Walker thinks he was robbed on Edwards' touchdown.

"I'm going to let you review it, I don't want to say anything wrong and have the league talking to me," Walker said. "He got the ball when we were rolling on the ground. When we were in the air, I caught it."

The Ravens fell behind 27-13 in the third quarter, but Walker said he always remained convinced that the defense would hold together.

"I thought, 'We're going to make this win a whole lot tougher than it should have been,'" Walker said. "We did what we had to do. It feels great."

BUSTED LOOSE: The Ravens' special teams unraveled against Browns Pro Bowl return specialist Joshua Cribbs, allowing him to rumble 92 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return in the first quarter.

Cribbs shook off tackle attempts from rookie safety Haruki Nakamura and kicker Matt Stover, eluding a diving Corey Ivy on his path to the end zone.

"You saw a healthy Josh Cribbs for the first time this year," Harbaugh said. "Their special teams are unbelievable. The guy is hard to bring down."

Cribbs finished with 237 total return yards, averaging 33.9 yards per kickoff return and 13.7 per punt return as he had a 32-yard punt return to set up another score.

"What are you going to do?" Ravens special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo said. "You've got to take him out of the game on returns and in coverage. From what I've seen, he's the best. You've got to respect him. You have to get all 11 guys after him.

"When it's your time to make a play, you've got to make a play. If he goes untouched all the way to the 50-yard line, you've got to tackle him. The kid probably broke five tackles."

The Ravens were leading 10-0 when Cribbs caught Stover's kickoff at the 8-yard line and registered his fifth career kickoff return for a touchdown and his first of the season.

"He's tough," Stover said. "I kicked it left, right, popped it up and tried everything. He's that good.'"

VICTORY MONDAY: Wrapping a bag of ice on his sore hamstring, Walker reflected on the news that the Ravens were being granted today off by Harbaugh.

It's the first Monday off for the players, swho usually have a light practice. Walker said he can't recall going this long without a Monday off even when he played for demanding New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

"Oh man, it feels great to me," Walker said. "Eight weeks! It makes you appreciate it more."

Added defensive tackle Haloti Ngata: "We definitely earned it. We expect to have practices on Monday because of the way John Harbaugh coaches and the way he likes to keep us focused. We'll enjoy the rest."

SINGLE-WING SHUT DOWN: The Ravens didn't have any success with their trendy single-wing, double-quarterback package as backup quarterback Troy Smith was slammed to the ground on an option run by linebacker Willie McGinest.

Plus, a few inside handoffs from Smith under center generated minimal yardage.

Meanwhile, Ngata ran a pass route in a goal-line situation. However, the athletic 6-foot-4, 345-pounder stumbled when he got into his pattern in the end zone and tangled with McGinest.

"Man, it sucks," Ngata said. "McGinest thought it was a run play and we both swam each other. That's what made me slip. I tried to get going as fast as I could. It sucks that I slipped like that."

TRAINING ROOM: Running back Willis McGahee watched from the sideline due to a sprained right ankle.

He didn't practice much last week, and rookie Ray Rice rushed for a career-high 154 yards.

"We put Willis in the emergency package," Harbaugh said. "He was banged up. He could have gone if we had needed him to. It's a plus that we were able to rest him this week."

Ngata suffered a neck stinger and Washington injured his right shoulder again, but both players returned to play.

Offensive tackle Adam Terry returned to play after missing a few games following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He lined up at offensive tackle and tight end, reporting as an eligible receiver.

"Shoot, it felt pretty good," Terry said. "I'm just excited to be back out there and be a part of this victory. I was just there to do whatever, play tight end, play tackle.

"I was just glad to be back. That's the hardest thing is being away and seeing other people play and progress. My role was to block. Whether it was big tight end or tackle. I even played wing."

QUOTABLE: Harbaugh on improving rookies Joe Flacco and Rice: "When they get drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, we expect them to play like that. Are we surprised? No." ... The Ravens deactivated rookie kicker Steve Hauschka, wide receiver Terrance Copper, McAlister, Rolle, strong safety Dawan Landry (spinal cord concussion), wide receiver Marcus Smith, tight end Daniel Wilcox (thigh) and defensive tackle Lamar Divens. ... Return specialist Yamon Figurs filled in as the third wide receiver with Demetrius Williams out for the season, but didn't catch a pass. ... Harbaugh dedicated the victory to former Ravens majority owner Art Modell, who remains a controversial figure in Cleveland after moving the original Browns to Maryland. ... Former University of Maryland linebacker D'Qwell Jackson had 11 tackles to lead the Browns. ... Bart Scott had 10 tackles for Baltimore.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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