We're analyzing the three biggest storylines from the Browns' 31-15 loss to the Ravens.
1. Browns can't capitalize on big moments the way they did Week 4
Ultimately, the final margin was by double digits in both of the Browns' and Ravens' meetings in 2019. Still, each of the games came down to a fateful sequence of plays that turned the game in favor of the road team.
When Cleveland came out victorious way back in Week 4, there were two pivotal moments. The first came on a third-quarter Mark Ingram fumble that the Browns turned into a touchdown the other way. The second came in the fourth quarter, when Nick Chubb ended any hopes of a Ravens comeback with the Browns' best play and moment of the season, an 88-yard game-sealing touchdown run.
On Sunday, it took just 1 minute of game time for the Ravens to wipe away all of the good Cleveland did through the first 28 minutes and take control of the game the way the Browns did months earlier. And just like the sequence in Week 4, it started with a mistake by the team that ended up on the wrong side of the final momentum shift.
"Things happen during the course of the game," Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. "Ups and downs, you have to be able to overcome the downs and convert on the ups to create seven points and we just did not do that enough."
The Browns' downturn started on the last play before the 2-minute warning. The Browns faced a third-and-1 at their own 28 when Kareem Hunt took a pitch and looked to pass. The Ravens swallowed him up immediately, never giving the trick play a chance to materialize, and Cleveland lost 8 yards.
The Ravens took over after the punt and didn't have any timeouts. It didn't matter. Lamar Jackson, who was relatively bottled up through most of the first half, put Baltimore in the end zone with two passes, the latter of which went 39 yards to a wide-open Mark Andrews as the result of a blown coverage.
"It can't happen," Kitchens said.
It got worse when the Browns got the ball back with 1:18 left in the half and punted it back to Baltimore 16 seconds later. Baker Mayfield threw three, quick incomplete passes to send the ball back to the Ravens, who had a sudden burst of momentum after their previous, quick-strike drive.
"We were just trying to push the ball down field," Mayfield said. "They brought some pressures so we were trying to get the ball out quick. The second one, they blitzed and he kind of ran into Jarvis (Landry) so it slowed his blitz down and then he got a hand on it or I really think that would have been a good play. It is just the little things on that drive."
Baltimore found the end zone again with a seven-play drive that required just 46 seconds. It was a 14-6 lead for a Ravens team that has seemingly played with the lead throughout most of its now 11-game winning streak.
The Ravens were in their comfort zone, the Browns were on their heels and the game was permanently changed.
"We just didn't make the plays on offense we needed to," Mayfield said. "Six points in the first half isn't good enough. We have to make more plays, take advantage of our one-on-ones and execute. A team like that is going to find ways to win.
"They have done that all year."
Check out photos of the Browns in action against the Ravens
2. Tough way to finish
Making Sunday's result tougher to swallow, the Browns found out shortly after the game that their playoff hopes would have been alive had they beaten the Ravens.
The Titans and Steelers lost their respective games while the Colts won theirs. It would have all had to have happened again next week, but the dream would have persevered for one more game.
"Listen, we knew there was a great opportunity there for that to happen," Kitchens said. "We had to go out and play well, and we did in spurts. We just did not play good enough the whole time. Baltimore is good football team. I do not know how many in a row that is now that they have won – 11 in a row – so they are a good football team. We just did not make enough plays to win the game."
The Browns were also frustrated for Sunday's showing to be the last their home fans would see until next September. Cleveland finished the season 4-4 at FirstEnergy Stadium after notching a 5-2-1 mark in 2018.
"If we take care of business next week, we will end up with the same amount of wins," Mayfield said. "Looking back on it, it is pretty much the same thing for us except with bigger expectations and we were not good enough."
3. A streak ends on tough day for Browns running attack
Chubb's streak of amassing at least 75 scrimmage yards came to an end Sunday when he gained just 45 yards on 15 attempts. It's the same number of carries he needed to clear 100 yards the previous week in Arizona, when things came much, much easier on the ground.
Cleveland's 49 rushing yards -- 30 of which were picked up on a three-play sequence in the third quarter -- were by far its lowest output of the season and marked the first time since Week 9 it'd been held below 100.
The Ravens just never let the Browns get rolling. That was doubly frustrating in a game Cleveland wanted to grind to a halt and limit possessions for Baltimore's potent offense. The Browns could just never get Chubb and Hunt going, and that allowed the Ravens to dominate time of possession, especially in the second half.
As evidenced in a number of different ways, it just wasn't the same as it was months ago during the teams' first meeting.
"We ran on them pretty well the first time so we were going to have a big plan. We just couldn't find a way," guard Joel Bitonio said, referencing the team's 193 rushing yards Week 4 against the Ravens. "In the second half, that first drive, we got a few good chunks ... It's tough. We couldn't get in a rhythm and when we did, we were behind so we had to start throwing the ball."