Browns' 1st quarter a 180 from opener
The Browns showed up ready to play on both sides of the ball Sunday, and it allowed them to jump out to their first lead of the 2016 season. And it was a big one.[
Cleveland was methodical on its opening drive, moving 75 yards on nine plays and converting three third downs along the way -- more than it had the entire game last week in Philadelphia. Rookie Corey Coleman dropped a perfect toe tap to preserve his first NFL touchdown, a 31-yarder from Josh McCown, and it allowed the Browns defense to play with a lead on its very first series.
Following a Browns defensive stop, Cleveland got back on the scoreboard just as the game came back from a commercial break. Isaiah Crowell busted through a hole in the middle of the line, broke the tackle attempts of the last two defenders and was gone for an 85-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career and the second-longest by anyone in Browns history.
Joe Haden's first interception of 2016 -- a play in which he baited a Joe Flacco throw into his direction -- set up the final score of the rally. McCown connected with Gary Barnidge for 14 yards on yet another third-down conversion before hitting Coleman on a quick screen that the rookie took for a 11-yard touchdown.
There was 4:34 to play in the first quarter, and the Browns led 20-0.
Momentum swung on the blocked extra point, which was returned by Tavon Young for a two-point conversion, but the start couldn't have been any better than envisioned …
Offense slows to a crawl
… Which made what happened over the next 49 minutes so regrettable for the Browns.
With McCown fighting through the pain of an injured left shoulder, the Browns simply couldn't generate enough consistent offense to keep piling on the points.
The holes closed up in the running game, as Crowell and Cleveland's runners gained just 40 yards on 16 attempts after the first quarter. Baltimore pinned back its ears and brought even more pressure on McCown, who took a number of hard hits and threw a costly interception near the end of the second quarter. The Ravens took possession with 42 seconds to play and moved the chains enough to get a field goal and cut into Cleveland's lead.
Clinging to a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Cleveland saw a potential scoring opportunity go awry when a costly unsportsmanlike penalty on Coleman moved the Browns to the outer fringe of field-goal range. Patrick Murray's 52-yard attempt sailed wide right, and the Ravens scored on the ensuing possession to get their first lead of the game.
Defense makes Ravens work but 3rd downs are costly
The Browns found themselves on the wrong end of the time of possession spectrum, and it appeared to catch up again for a defense that made Baltimore work for every point and yard it collected.
Cleveland picked up its first two turnovers of 2016, both on Joe Haden interceptions, and both either directly stopped Baltimore from scoring or led to points for the offense. The Browns brought constant pressure on Joe Flacco that disrupted a number of his throws but weren't able to sack him. Baltimore's longest run went for 11 yards and the Ravens averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. Flacco took a number of his customary deep shots, but the Browns only truly got burned on plays down the seams by Baltimore's tight ends. The only possession that was a breeze for Baltimore was its first of the second half, as Flacco marched the Ravens 75 yards on six plays in less than 2 minutes to draw the Ravens within a point.
Ultimately, what undid the Browns defense for a second consecutive game was third downs. The Ravens converted 7 of their first 10 and finished 10-of-16. On the season, opponents have converted 15-of-31 third downs against the Browns defense.
The Browns play the Ravens during the second half of the 2016 home opener.