The Baltimore Ravens got a good push from up the middle. Derek Anderson side-stepped to the right and looked downfield. Braylon Edwards had a step on Ravens defensive back Corey Ivy. Anderson reset, reared back, and launched the football down the field. It arced perfectly over Edwards’ head and landed right into his hands.
But when the ball fell to the ground on Edwards’s league-leading 12th drop of the season, the Browns fell apart and fell to the Ravens, 37-27. The loss puts the Browns at 3-5 on the season with a 1-3 record in the AFC North. If the Browns had any hopes of making a playoff push in the second half of the season, they may have left it on the field with Edwards’s missed touchdown.
The Jeckel and Hyde Browns reared their ugly heads once again, to the dismay of the Cleveland faithful, spotting the Ravens a 10-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to field position and a turnover.
Dave Zastudil shanked a 20-yard punt to give the Ravens their opening possession of the game on the Browns’ 42. The Ravens managed a Matt Stover field goal for a 3-0 lead. Syndric Steptoe turned the ball over on the ensuing possession and the Ravens started on the Browns’ 47. Two plays later it was 10-0, after Joe Flacco hit Mark Clayton on a 47-yard post route.
Josh Cribbs appeared as healthy as he has been all year, as he took Stover’s kick and rumbled 92 yards for his fifth career return touchdown. It was a much-needed spark, as the Browns' offense could only manage 32 yards on their first three drives of the ballgame.
The Browns offense showed some signs of life, as they drove 74 yards in 11 plays to add a Phil Dawson field goal and make the score 10-10. The Ravens and Browns then traded field goals at the end of the half to go into the locker room tied at 13.
The first half featured two Ravens rookies—Flacco and Ray Rice—having their way with the Browns' defense. Flacco picked apart the defensive backfield, hitting Clayton and wily veteran Derrick Mason at will while Rice seemed to get five yards a pop each time he took the handoff.
The second half started off all Browns as the Ravens went three and out and Cribbs returned the resulting punt to the Baltimore 28. Anderson immediately hit Edwards in the corner of the end zone for a 20-13 Browns lead.
The defense responded by forcing another Baltimore three-and-out. The Browns took over on their own 28 and Anderson began to heat up. Aided by a Ray Lewis pass interference penalty, the Browns drove 72 yards, which culminated in a touchdown when Anderson hit Jason Wright on a swing pass for seven yards at a 27-13 lead.
However, as quickly as the offense and defense appeared out of nowhere, they disappeared even faster. Utilizing the no huddle, Flacco led Baltimore 79 yards to answer the Browns’ two touchdowns by continuing to find Mason wide open and letting Rice run wild. When Le’Ron McClain bowled over Sean Jones at the one-yard line for a touchdown, momentum had definitely shifted.
The Ravens' next possession again started in Cleveland territory, on the 41, and in three short plays the game was tied at 27. Flacco found Mason isolated on Eric Wright, who whiffed on the tackle, and Mason walked into the end zone 28 yards later.
The next possession was when the Browns’ season may have ended. On 3rd-and-7 from his own 24, Anderson wiggled his way away from the Ravens' aggressive pass rush and saw Edwards breaking open. Edwards dropped the ball, resulting in a second consecutive three-and-out, and the Browns' flaccid offense added three more on their next three possessions.
Meanwhile, the Ravens kept pounding Rice at will, and he eventually busted a 60-yard run off of the right tackle to take the ball to the Browns' two. Somehow, the reeling Cleveland defense managed to stiffen and hold the Ravens to a third Stover field goal and a 30-27 score.
The Browns and Ravens traded three-and-outs on their ensuing possessions and the Browns were staring down a sixth consecutive three-and-out with just under three minutes left in the game. The Browns would have loved a three-and-out, but instead got a Terrell Suggs pick-six when Anderson threw a screen pass right into Suggs's hands, and Suggs raced 42 yards to a 37-27 Baltimore victory.
It was uglier than the final score indicated, as the Browns failed to gain a first down from 6:07 in the third quarter until there was only 2:25 remaining in the game. Take away Cribbs’s kickoff return and the numbers become even more skewed. The Browns yielded 429 yards, including 193 on the ground, to a Baltimore offense that doesn’t invoke fear in anyone.
That, coupled with the Browns offense disappearing in the first quarter and last 25 minutes of the game, spelled doom for Cleveland on this day. And it just may have spelled doom for their 2008 season.