The Browns delivered stop after stop Sunday but couldn't capitalize in a pivotal, primetime AFC matchup in Baltimore.
Cleveland's defense limited Lamar Jackson and the potent Ravens offense to a single touchdown and forced four turnovers, but Baltimore's defense proved equally problematic. The Browns hung within striking distance from start to finish but never led and ultimately fell, 16-10, at M&T Bank Stadium.
"Very disappointing and frustrated in that game," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Credit to Baltimore. They did a good job. They beat us, and we've got to get through this bye week, fix some things, get healthy, unplug for a minute, and then we've got Baltimore again in a stretch run. That's what is in front of us, but, ultimately, disappointed about tonight."
The Browns, who have neither won nor lost consecutive games since Week 7, fell to 6-6 as they head into a bye. Baltimore stayed atop the AFC North by moving to 8-3.
"I think we all are very frustrated. It stings," Stefanski said. "We did some really good things. The defense taking the ball away [from the Ravens] four times. But then we get no points off it. The bottom line is, we will come in, we will look at it, we will learn from it, and then we've got to get ready for a stretch run."
Baker Mayfield threw for 247 yards and a touchdown but struggled to find much through the air in the fourth quarter as the Browns couldn't overcome a Ravens defense that brought relentless pressure and lived up to its billing as one of the league's toughest on third downs.
The Browns, who came into Sunday's game ranked second in the NFL in rushing offense, posted a season-low 40 yards on 17 carries. Nick Chubb was limited to 16 yards while Kareem Hunt, in his first game back since Week 6, had 20.
"To not score enough, it's always a combination of things—staying on the field on third down, trying to run the ball effectively and getting in the red zone, all of those things," Stefanski said. "But we're just not doing a good enough job, and that starts with me."
Jarvis Landry led the Browns with a season-high 111 yards on six catches. TE Harrison Bryant added three catches for 50 yards before exiting with an injury. Cleveland also lost RT Jack Conklin, who was just activated from injured reserve Saturday, to a first-quarter knee injury.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Ravens in Week 12
Trailing by 10, the Browns offense got rolling near the end of the third quarter to draw within three heading into the final 15 minutes. Mayfield found Landry for a 38-yard completion and then punctuated the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to David Njoku. The sliding catch survived a lengthy review and put the Browns within striking distance, 13-10.
"It was a good ball by Baker [Mayfield], and I came up with it," Njoku said.
The Browns, though, couldn't get past midfield on their next two possessions, and the clock became their enemy. When Justin Tucker extended the Ravens' lead to six with a 49-yard field goal, the Browns had no timeouts and just 1:10 on the clock to try to pull off the comeback.
The Browns went four-and-out, and the game was over.
"We just need to make more plays," Mayfield said. "I mean, as simple as that sounds, that's really the way it is. There are plays there to be made, and we need to make them.
"Our offense needs to make more plays - it's really as simple as that. We need to play complementary football down the stretch if we want to have a chance."
Jackson completed 20-of-32 passes for 165 yards and four interceptions — the most by the Browns since Nov. 14, 2019. Jackson led the Ravens with 68 of the team's 148 rushing yards.
The Ravens extended their 6-3 halftime lead with a third quarter-opening drive that featured two highlight-reel connections between Jackson and TE Mark Andrews.
Baltimore moved deep into Browns territory when Jackson heaved a 39-yard pass to Andrews, who was tugged to the ground by S Ronnie Harrison Jr. but still managed to catch it with one hand. Jackson essentially did the same a few plays later when he escaped a heap of trouble and found Andrews for a 13-yard touchdown pass that put Baltimore ahead, 13-3, at 9:48 in the third quarter.
"He's a great player," Stefanski said. "He makes plays like that. You've got to try and find a way to get him on the ground. And you know you've got to cover your guy for a very long time when you're playing him."
The Browns and Ravens struggled to put points on the board in a first half that ended with a combined five turnovers in the final 4 minutes.
Cleveland forced three of them, as Denzel Ward, Grant Delpit and Harrison intercepted Jackson on consecutive possessions. Unfortunately, all the Browns offense could do with them were three points, as Chase McLaughlin made up for a miss on Cleveland's opening drive by knocking through a 46-yarder with 1:02 left in the half.
"To me, that's kind of the story of our season so farm As far as not being able to play complementary football to our defense," Mayfield said. "The defense I thought played great."
The Browns turned it over twice during this stretch, both of which coming inside Baltimore territory. Landry fumbled while looking downfield for a pass and Mayfield fumbled as the ball slipped from his hands while attempting a screen.
Cleveland's defense helped limit the first-half damage by forcing two Tucker field goals, the second of which coming after the Browns stuffed the Ravens on back-to-back plays at the 1-yard line.
The Browns will be back in action Week 14 when they host the Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 12.
"We need to grow, get better, and focus on our packages, because there are a lot of plays to be made, and I just don't think we've done it," Mayfield said. "We are good enough to do so, but we haven't done it."