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3 Big Takeaways: Penalties cost Browns in pivotal moments vs. Ravens

Late-game penalties against the Browns shrunk their chances of overcoming a 10-point deficit to the Ravens


BALTIMORE — The Browns saw their losing streak extend to four-games Sunday after they lost, 23-20, to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium Stadium.

We're diving into takeaways from another close, yet disappointing finish.

1. Penalties cost Browns most in pivotal moments

The Browns were on the wrong side of two critical penalty calls in the fourth quarter — although they also had penalties that hurt them in other key moments of the game, too.

Cleveland committed six penalties for 45 yards in the game, and the biggest of the bunch was called against G Michael Dunn as rookie K Cade York attempted a 56-yard field goal to tie the game with two minutes left. The penalty moved the kick back to a 60-yard attempt, and York's attempt was blocked at the line of scrimmage.

Replay didn't appear to show Dunn move. Stefanski said he didn't receive an explanation from referees about the call on the field but will seek one from the league.

"I didn't get a good (explanation)," he said. "I'll make sure I get an answer, but I didn't get a good one. I didn't want the 2-minute warning to expire over that play … I'll get an explanation."

Before the kick attempt, WR Amari Cooper had a 34-yard touchdown called back due to an offensive passing interference call. Cooper exchanged contact with Ravens CB Marcus Peters on the play, and Stefanski said he would also seek an explanation from the league on the call.

"With all those, I'll get an explanation later, but it's frustrating," he said. "These guys are playing like crazy. They're putting in the work, trying to get it done. It's unfortunate, and I'll get my answer tomorrow, but it's frustrating."

Other costly penalties included a defensive pass-interference call on S Grant Delpit against TE Mark Andrews on a third-and-7 play from the Browns' 22-yard line in the third quarter. The penalty gave the Ravens another four downs, which they used to gain another first down and score a touchdown that extended their lead to 20-10.

LT Jedrick Wills Jr. was also flagged for a false start and offensive holding penalties in the first half that created long-distance situations.

"We've got to play clean football," Stefanski said.

Brissett said the penalties in the final minute, regardless of whether they were the correct calls, didn't decide the game for the Browns.

"I definitely think there were a lot more plays out there that we left," he said. "Off the top of my head, I can think of five … We weren't expecting calls, so we just have to find a way to make those plays and be better."

Check out photos of the Browns against the Ravens in Week 7

2. The defensive plan against Lamar Jackson worked

And it resulted in the defense's best game of the season.

Jackson was sacked three times and was held to 179 scrimmage yards and completed just nine of 16 pass attempts for 120 yards. Baltimore was held to 254 total yards, the lowest total the Browns have allowed this year.

It's one of the lowest outputs Jackson has had all season, too, and it was exactly what the Browns defense needed to not only give Cleveland a chance to win, but show they're capable of playing better football after a difficult six-week start to the year.

"I think we did a good job of containing him," DE Myles Garrett said. "We tried to keep them away from throwing the ball, and they kind of went away from it. We did a good job of slowing down the running game and keeping their averages low, especially for them."

The most telling stat of the Browns' defensive dominance Sunday might come from TE Mark Andrews' stat line.

The 2021 Pro Bowler and All-Pro was held with a single catch. It's a credit to the Browns' linebackers' corps for holding him in check, as well as the rest of the defense for shutting down Jackson's favorite receiving target.

But Garrett said it's tough for the performance to feel like a silver lining after yet another painful defeat.

"A loss is a loss," he said. "I don't think about the stats at all. The stats don't matter to me, especially when we lose. The film's not going to lie. It's going to tell us what we need to work on, what we need to improve and how we could have made a difference in that game."

3. Focus changes quickly to Week 8

Just as they've done in losses over the last month, the Browns are moving on quickly to the next game.

At 2-5, the Browns' odds of remaining in the playoff race in the final two months of the season appear slim — but they're not non-existent yet. It's imperative for the Browns to bounce back against another AFC North opponent next week in the Bengals, who are 4-3 and tied for first place in the division. The schedule beyond that is difficult with the next three games against the Dolphins, Bills and Buccaneers — all teams who are above .500.

The Browns know they need to start rebuilding momentum as fast as possible, and it starts with flushing the results from Sunday and doing everything necessary to find a way to win next Monday at home.

"Nobody is intent on giving up or letting this season go," Garrett said. "There are still 10 games left and a lot of football to be played, and a lot of division football to be played. Everything is still ahead of us. It would have been nice to win this game, and it would've been nice for our standings in the division, but we still have a lot of time to correct the mistakes we make."

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