We're starting our 3 Big Takeaways on defense, which came up with four big takeaways of its own in a losing effort Sunday in Baltimore.
1. 2 great throws hurt Browns D on its 4-interception night
After a first half of the season filled with tough defense but only a few turnovers to show for it, the takeaways have arrived. They've come in bunches since the start of the month — nine in the last four games — and the barrage peaked Sunday with four interceptions, three of which coming during a wild, 4-minute sequence at the end of the second quarter.
None of the four, unfortunately, changed the game the way Cleveland hoped. The Browns picked up just one field goal following the interceptions, as the Ravens put the clamps on Cleveland's offense from start to finish in the 16-10 victory.
Ultimately, the two big throws Cleveland did surrender on this night — both coming on the Ravens' only touchdown drive — proved to have a bigger impact on the final result.
"(The defense) was outstanding," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "[I'm] really pleased with how those guys played. They were relentless. I thought they were running to the ball all night. No. 8, like he does, he made some plays. You understand he is going to make some of those. That's what happens when you are playing him."
No. 8, of course, is Lamar Jackson, who set a career high with four interceptions but delivered two highlight-reel throws to stake the Ravens to a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter.
The first looked like a prayer, as Jackson rolled to his right away from a group of Browns defenders and bought just enough time to loft a deep pass toward TE Mark Andrews. S Ronnie Harrison Jr. pulled Andrews to the ground before the ball landed, prompting a flag for pass interference, but Andrews caught it anyways for a 39-yard gain.
Three plays later, facing a third-and-10, Jackson outdid himself when he escaped all sorts of pressure and drifted all the way back to the 35-yard line before finding Andrews in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown.
The Browns seemingly did everything right — including the turnovers — but it still wasn't enough on this night.
"He made a hell of a play," DE Myles Garrett said. "I hit his arm while he was throwing it, and I expected it to be a fumble or an incomplete pass and he gets it 30 yards down the field and into the end zone. The guy's a great player."
Check out photos of the Browns against the Ravens in Week 12
2. Feeling for Jack
Stefanski and Browns players couldn't help but feel awful for T Jack Conklin, who exited with a knee injury in the first quarter of Sunday's game. The All-Pro right tackle has been snake bit by injuries all season and was just activated from injured reserve Saturday after missing three games with an elbow injury.
"You hate that for anybody, especially for Jack, who has been fighting to come back after the dislocated elbow," QB Baker Mayfield said. "Just one of those freak deals and I hate it for him. He's one of our guys and that's just a really unfortunate thing."
Without Conklin, the Browns once again relied on Blake Hance, who entered the season as a guard but has been forced to play extensive snaps at both left and right tackle.
The Browns are hoping for the best with Conklin's latest injury but understand just how frustrated the veteran tackle must be.
"It hurts to see Jack like that," Garrett said. "I see the guy work every day, see him work in training camp. I was part of the little group to get him to come here. To see him deal with all these injuries and knowing what he's going through, it's tough to see and tough to watch. I feel for him."
3. Eyes Forward
The Browns are back at .500 for the fifth time in 2021, and they'll have just five games after the bye to make a push toward the playoffs.
The AFC is crowded with playoff contenders, especially in the AFC North. The Ravens sit at the top at 8-3 but have little room to breathe with the Bengals at 7-4, the Steelers at 5-5-1 and the Browns at 6-6.
The opportunity remains to make a move, but the time to do it is dwindling. Still, Browns players were adamant they have what it takes to make a run over the final five weeks.
"We go into the bye week, we play the Ravens again and we have a few division games left," Mayfield said. "Those are important games and every single one is. It's going to be a true one-week-at-a-time mentality for us, and we have to have it. We need to control what we can, and that's doing our job and going out there and finding ways to win one week at a time."