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Browns won't 'go down the moral victories path' after last-second loss to Ravens


When the kick went through the uprights, the only sounds that could be heard at FirstEnergy Stadium came from the visiting team sidelines.

As Baltimore Ravens players paraded on the field to celebrate the 55-yard game-winning kick from Justin Tucker, Browns players and coaches dipped their heads in disgust. Some turned away. Others just stared into space. One feeling was common among all of them: disbelief.

The Browns fell 47-42 to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night despite a three-touchdown performance in the fourth quarter and a comeback from a 14-point deficit in the second half. Cleveland came back twice in the fourth quarter and was on the verge of a win that would've made the Browns near locks for the playoffs.

But then the kick went through the uprights. It snapped the Browns' four-game winning streak and signaled the end of one of the most chaotic games in the history of the Browns-Ravens rivalry.

Cleveland had plenty of positives to take with them, but the result was the only thing Browns players and coaches were thinking after the game.

"We came here to get a victory, and we did not," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Very hard-fought game on both sides. I appreciate how the guys battled, but we just did not do enough to get a win. I do not want to go down the moral victories [path]. We lost. We got beat."

Check out photos of the Ravens against the Browns

Stefanski is right — it feels impossible to focus on a moral victory after a gut-wrenching, last-second loss to an AFC North rival. The Browns were minutes away from reaching 10 wins, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since 2007, and were one massive step away from getting closer to clinching their first playoff appearance since 2002. The Browns had plenty at stake on a Monday night primetime stage, but all of the excitement that unfolded over a chilly night in Cleveland ended abruptly.

The excitement started after two-and-a-half quarters of frustration. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson used his legs to run through the Browns defense for two touchdowns in the first half. By the halfway point of the third quarter, he had already rushed for more than 100 yards and rarely needed to throw the ball to advance the Ravens offense.

Meanwhile, the Browns' offense was struggling to keep up. Two touchdowns from running back Nick Chubb in the first half kept them within striking distance, but plenty of improvements needed to be made if they were going to match the Ravens on the scoreboard.

Stefanski, though, knew what to do. Or, what not to do: panic.

He stuck to his plan even though quarterback Baker Mayfield broke a streak of 187 consecutive passes without an interception — the fourth-longest streak ever by a Browns quarterback — and continued to let Mayfield find open targets and for Chubb and Kareem Hunt to find rushing lanes.

It worked. The Browns got within a touchdown of the lead when Mayfield found receiver Rashard Higgins alone in the end zone at the beginning of the fourth quarter. On the next drive, Mayfield boosted the Browns by himself with a 5-yard scramble that ended with a smooth endzone slide, a throw of the football into the back wall and a celebratory yell into the dark Cleveland sky.

"We never lost our belief in the fact that we had a chance to win that game," he said. "Even down two scores, just continuing to fight and fighting for each other."

The next 6 minutes of football included 20 points, the fifth lead change of the game and the return of Jackson, who exited late in the third quarter due to cramps. He arrived just when backup quarterback Trace McSorley, who made his NFL debut two weeks ago, limped off the field. On his first play back, he threw a 44-yard, fourth-down touchdown to put the Ravens ahead.

"The man is dynamic," defensive end Myles Garrett said. "That is what he has been doing all year and his whole career."

Then, the Browns struck back. Mayfield orchestrated a four-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a pass to Hunt in the end zone. From that point on, however, the fate of the game was out of the offense's hands. The score was still tied, and lots of work was left to seal a win.

With 64 seconds left, Jackson took the Ravens 38-yards downfield again with a series of short passes. That set Tucker up for his field goal. Then, all the positives of the last 59 minutes and 58 seconds were washed away.

"We were trying to keep him out of that range, and they made a couple of nice plays there," Stefanski said. "We just have to do better."

The Browns know they must move on. That'll be easier to do with their next game, a Sunday night showdown in New York against the Giants, only six days away.

Short weeks normally aren't warmly welcomed in the NFL.

But the Browns? After Monday night, they'll take it.

"We have a short week to where we have to be focused," Mayfield said. "We have to come out there on Sunday to get that taste out of our mouths and move forward. That is the most important part."

The Browns don't want to think about the 343 passing yards from Mayfield against the top-ranked defense in the NFL. They don't want to want to think yet about their four rushing touchdowns, which contributed to nine total rushing touchdowns in the game — the only other two times that happened was in 1922. They don't want to think about how they came back from two late deficits.

That's fine. They don't have to. This loss packed an especially painful sting.

So they're looking ahead, just like they did in their three previous losses this season. They've never had back-to-back losses all season, and they're triggering that same approach again with the playoffs still in sight.

The disbelief they felt in the final seconds won't linger. It's time to move on.

"We will own this," Stefanski said, "and we will move on and put all of our efforts into next week."

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