Ron Schwane/Associated Press
The Baltimore Ravens have struggled as of late, dropping four of their last six games. But on Monday night, they looked much like the team that handily defeated the Cleveland Browns, 38-6, in Week 1.
On Monday, Baltimore led 34-20 at the start of the fourth quarter, but a movie script-worthy ending gave it the 47-42 victory.
Baker Mayfield recorded the ninth combined rushing touchdown of the night to give the Browns the 35-34 lead in the fourth quarter, and the Ravens, who lost quarterback Lamar Jackson to cramps at the end of the third quarter, were unable to recover under Trace McSorley.
But just as McSorley appeared to be injured, Jackson returned at the two-minute warning, and he threw a touchdown pass to Marquise Brown on his first play back.
Shortly after the Browns got the ball, Mayfield tied the game with a 22-yard pass to Kareem Hunt. It came down to a field goal from Justin Tucker to seal the deal before a safety from the Ravens defense.
Next Gen Stats @NextGenStats
Baker Mayfield and Kareem Hunt answer for the Browns on this 22-yard TD to tie the game at 42-42 with 1:04 left in the 4th quarter.
The probability Kareem Hunt scored when caught the ball at the 16-yard line?
➤ TD Probability: 1.2%
#BALvsCLE | #Browns https://t.co/YCzbynj8qu
With the victory on the road, the Ravens, who started off 5-1, improved their record to 8-5 and are still in the hunt for an AFC wild-card berth.
The Browns, who were led by 343 passing yards, two touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown from Baker Mayfield, snapped a four-game winning streak. While they are now 9-4, they haven’t moved from the No. 4 spot in the AFC standings since they hold the head-to-head advantage over the 9-4 Indianapolis Colts.
- Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns: 343 passing yards, 28-of-47 passing, 2 passing TD, 1 rushing TD
- Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens: 124 rushing yards, 2 rushing TD, 11-of-17 passing, 163 passing yards
- Nick Chubb, RB, Browns: 82 yards, 2 TD
- Gus Edwards, RB, Ravens: 49 yards, 2 TD
Baltimore’s Run Game Can’t Be Beat
The Browns defense is one of the better squads when it comes to protecting the run, entering Monday’s game allowing 104.3 rushing yards per game—good for eighth-best in the league. Their ability to shut it down was highlighted in their four-game winning streak, during which they limited opponents to an average of 99.5 rushing yards per game and allowed just two rushing touchdowns.
But it was no match for a Ravens offense that leads the league with an average of 169.0 rushing yards per game while becoming the only team with at least four players adding at least 50 carries this season, according to NFL Research.
When the Ravens scored their second touchdown of the night, they had minus-eight net passing yards. Per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, the last team to post 14 points with negative passing yardage was the 2003 Oakland Raiders. They ended the night with 231 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, with two each for Jackson and Edwards and another for J.K. Dobbins.
Naturally, the leader of the Ravens’ running game is their dual-threat quarterback. Jackson broke a Monday Night Football record with 124 rushing yards, topping Russell Wilson‘s 2014 record of 122 (h/t Hensley).
The Ravens will get a chance to highlight their productivity on the run again next week when they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that has allowed 145.5 rushing yards per game (third-worst in the NFL).
Baker Bursting Under Pressure
Mayfield was picked off for the first time in 187 pass attempts—ending the longest streak of his career—with 4:32 left in the third quarter as the Browns trailed 28-20. Tyus Bowser, who made his first career start last week, carried the interception 17 yards to the 1-yard line, setting up a Dobbins rushing score on the next play to make it 34-20 after a blocked extra point.
The Browns signal-caller hadn’t thrown an interception for five games, dating back to Week 7 (Oct. 25). In that same span, he had thrown 11 touchdowns. It was a major improvement on his start to the season when he threw 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in six games.
Perhaps Mayfield and the Browns were doomed from the start of Monday’s game. The Browns hadn’t allowed a touchdown in the first quarter of any game for the length of their winning streak. In all four of their losses, they were trailing at halftime.
Just one of their wins—a 37-34 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in that Week 7 game that saw Mayfield threw his last interception—saw the team come back from a halftime deficit.
The Browns should have better luck against the New York Giants next week since the team averages just 9.2 first half points (fifth-lowest in league) and is averaging just 3.3 first-half points through its last three games.
The Browns will travel to play the 5-8 New York Giants on Sunday. The Ravens will get a break from a difficult stretch and host the 1-12 Jacksonville Jaguars, who the Browns barely eked past in Week 12.