For nine weeks, the Cleveland Browns’ defense has worked on putting together a full 60-minute game, and all that work paid off in their 24-18 win over the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
The Browns held the Ravens to 55 rushing yards, contained quarterback Joe Flacco to 250 yards on 41 pass attempts, and seven third-down conversions in the victory, their first in the last 12 outings against Baltimore.
“It felt so good just to see my boys out there making plays,” defensive back
Haden came up with one of the Browns’ biggest plays of the second quarter as the Ravens were threatening just before halftime.
With 3:18 remaining in the second quarter, Flacco took a snap in the shotgun formation on second-and-10 from Baltimore’s 40-yard line and threw a pass deep down the middle of the field for wide receiver Jacoby Jones. Browns safety
Haden ran underneath it and recorded his first interception of the season.
“They ran a triple move on me, so I’m just running with (Baltimore wide receiver) Torrey (Smith), and I see him throw the ball, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my. Everybody’s back here,’” Haden said. “I was just playing behind and I see Gip go up for it, and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, a pick,’ just waiting for him to get it.
“As soon as he tipped it, I was like, ‘Here’s my chance. I have to get this.’ I dove and made sure I turned so the ball wouldn’t hit the ground. It felt like I had a big weight off my shoulders.”
At the start of the second half, the Browns held a 14-10 lead, but the Ravens got the kickoff after deferring their choice to the third quarter. They took more than six minutes off the clock with a 13-play, 45-yard drive, but stalled when Browns safety T.J. Ward registered one of the five sacks the defense collected against Flacco.
“I’ve played a lot of football in this league to know that means absolutely nothing,” Jackson said of the four-point lead. “You’ve got to play every snap like it’s 0-0. Every team in this league, they’re going to give you their best shot. Whether they’re down, whether they’re up, what we have to do is understand that and keep the hard hat on and keep plugging away. They’re going to make some plays, but we made enough to win the game tonight.
“Guys rose to the occasion. We had a turnover and were able to keep them from field-goal range. I thought that was the key in the game. If you can force them out of field-goal range or give up field goals and not touchdowns, you’ll always be in the game toward the end.”
Like Jackson, Browns outside linebacker
“Our team had a lot of energy,” Kruger said. “Our defense was very focused. We knew what we had to do to win this game, and (Baltimore’s) a good team. We knew it was going to take everything we had to come out here and get a win.
“Everybody stepped up, made some big plays and the offense was just holding it down for us the whole game. It was an all-out team game and big win for us.”
By limiting the Ravens to 55 yards rushing and Flacco to 250 yards, the Browns are the only team in the NFL to hold their opponents without a 100-yard rusher or 300-yard passer through their first nine games of the season.
Under the guidance of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, they also held Ravens running back Ray Rice to 1.5 yards per carry, the lowest average of his career in any game with 10 or more carries, according to STATS, LLC.
“Coach Horton came in and said, ‘It’s nothing that they’re doing. It’s everything on us,’” Gipson said. “This season, we’ve always had a tail of two halves. Whether it’s been the first half dominating, the second half laying down or the first half, laying an egg and the second half, coming out and dominating, and we just wanted to come out there and pull out a full-game performance. Coach Horton challenged us all week, and I think we aced the test. I’m just excited for this defensive unit.
“Granted, we don’t get the publicity as a lot of other teams do, but I feel this defense is second to nobody’s defense. This is a huge win for us. Hopefully, momentum is good for us in the division, and the chips are going to fall where they land.”