After losing 11 straight games to the Baltimore Ravens, the Cleveland Browns talked all week about how this team didn’t lose all those games. That it would be different this time.
They backed up the talk with a 24-18 win over the defending Super Bowl champions, raising their record to 4-5 on the season.
The Browns, who people figured had given up on the 2013 season, are now in a playoff race heading into the bye week. just a game behind the Jets for the sixth and final spot in the post-season.
Same day, the Browns lack of a running game is going to hurt them, but that day wasn’t today, as Cleveland gained just 73 yards on the ground with an average of 2.6 yards per carry.
Willis McGahee carried 21 times for an unbelievably low total of 31 yards, and the Browns inability to punch a touchdown in the closing minutes allowed one more chance for Baltimore.
Of course, the Ravens, who actually rank lower in the league’s statistics in running, managed just 55 yards on the ground, also averaging 2.6 yards per attempt.
The offensive stars for Cleveland were QB Jason Campbell, who provided his second straight effective start, hitting on 23 of 35 passes for 262 yards and three touchdown passes, two to Davone Bess, who rebounded after last week’s horrendous performance.
Campbell made some huge plays to keep possession on the Browns’ last drive, in which they took over the ball with a three-point lead and 6:44 remaining.
First, he scrambled for 12 yards on a 3rd and 3. Then, he converted a 4th and 1 with a cross the body toss to Bess, who made a diving catch, after being chased out of the pocket.
He even showed his backup, Brandon Weeden, how to correctly execute the flip pass, hitting Chris Ogbonnaya for 14 yards after being flushed out of the pocket.
He was efficient and trusted his receivers on a few plays, throwing into tight coverage and expecting his wide outs to make the play.
The first scoring drive featured a throw to Greg Little, who turned it into a 46 yard pick up after the catch. Also, the first TD throw to Bess was made with a Raven defender right on him.
Little had perhaps his best day as a pro, hauling in seven passes for 122 yards. He did leave the game with a shoulder injury.
Campbell also received good protection from the offensive line, who allowed just two sacks on the day after giving up five the first time the two teams met in Baltimore.
This time, it was the Browns who sacked Joe Flacco five times, and once again five different players did the honors (Chris Owens, T.J. Ward, Jabaal Sheard, Armonty Bryant, and Quentin Groves).
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said the Browns needed to improve on third down situations and they did just that, holding Baltimore to just 7 of 16 conversions. And Joe Haden picked up his first interception of the year.
A fumbled punt set up Cleveland’s third and final touchdown.
With the bye week here, let’s hope the front office can address the team’s inability to do anything on the ground. McGahee is a pro, but outside of the Buffalo game (and he averaged only three yards a carry in that game), he has not been effective.
Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner made it work without a ground game today, but if more meaningful games are played later in the season, it will be necessary to run the ball to protect leads.
Right now, they simply can’t run the ball, which of course makes Campbell’s day even more impressive.
We will say it again, it is amazing what a professional quarterback can do with this offense.
After the week off, the Browns visit Cincinnati, who no doubt will have revenge on their minds after a beating they took in Cleveland in week four.
That game will be bigger than anyone would have thought after the Browns were 0-2 and traded their starting running back.