“Feels good to get a win,” he shouted to everyone in the room. “Now people can stop looking at us funny.”
It wasn’t pretty and sometimes scary at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday afternoon. The Ravens offense was shut out in the first half and the team suffered a handful of injuries, including to Pro Bowl running back
But Baltimore’s defense strongly rebounded from its Week 1 performance and the offense did enough in the second half to come out with a 14-6 win over the Browns in Sunday’s home opener at M&T Bank Stadium.
“I thought we played the kind of game we needed to play to win the game,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
A week after surrendering a franchise-high 49 points and whopping seven touchdown passes to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, the Ravens defense didn’t let Cleveland in the end zone.
It’s the first time the Ravens didn’t give up a touchdown since Nov. 4, 2012, when they held the Browns to five field goals.
The revamped front seven harassed Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden and eventually knocked him out of the game with a thumb injury. Baltimore notched five sacks and hit Weeden 12 times.
“That’s Baltimore defense right there,” defensive tackle Art Jones said with a wide smile.
The Ravens celebrated their 2012 world championship before the game with a brief video montage, and unveiling of a Super Bowl banner.
The party quickly ended when the Browns hit a 53-yard completion on their first offensive play of the game to tight end Jordan Cameron. But Baltimore’s defense stiffened with their backs against the end zone, and stuffed the Browns three times from inside the 10. It was more of the same from there on out.
Harbaugh started to say that keeping the Browns out of the end zone may have been the difference in the game, but stopped short and said it was one of a handful.
“That was very important,” Harbaugh said. “As the game went on, I think [a touchdown there] would have changed our thinking a little bit.”
Browns kicker Billy Cundiff did all the scoring in the first half, annoying Ravens fans. With the Baltimore crowd raining boos down on the former Ravens kicker who missed a game-tying attempt in the 2011 AFC championship game, Cundiff drilled two first-half field goals from 21 and 51 yards out.
Meanwhile, current Ravens kicker
Baltimore’s offense only managed 122 yards of total offense in the first half and was 1-for-7 on third down. They missed on a couple of touchdown opportunities when passes bounced off the hands of
But the Ravens offense got going at the start of the second half under steady quarterback
Flacco still played, and finished with 211 yards and one touchdown. He made a number of clutch first-down throws in the second half. The Ravens, trailing 6-0 at halftime, stayed patient and put together two touchdowns drives for the victory.
“The game didn't go exactly how we wanted it to, but that's how we've won football games around here,” Flacco said. “We're able to win like this, and sometimes you have to do it in a ugly way."
Rice started the second half with a 14-yard gain, and Flacco went 3-for-3 for 44 yards on the drive, with every completion converting on third down. He hit three different receivers in Smith, Brown and
The Ravens offense looked to be back on track until Rice fumbled on the Ravens’ side of the field. But the defense answered the call again.
Defensive tackle Art Jones notched a sack in his first game back from a scary heart condition, then Baltimore came up with a stop on fourth down. The ball was just a centimeter short of the sticks, so close that referees had trouble making the call.
The Ravens simply had to run out the clock, but Rice went down on a carry to the outside without being hit. He immediately grabbed for his left hip and limped to the locker room with about 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. He suffered a strained hip flexor.
The offense kept chugging. Flacco hit Brown for a gain of 18 yards and a first down, then hit him again for a 5-yard touchdown to give the Ravens a 14-6 lead with 8:57 remaining. The rookie free agent now has two touchdowns in two games.
“I wasn’t frustrated because I looked at Joe and Joe wasn’t frustrated,” Brown said of the offensive struggles in the first half. “He’s our leader, so if our leader isn’t frustrated, and he’s calm and cool, I’m going to be like, ‘We’re going to be alright, because Joe’s going to be alright.’”
The Ravens defense stopped the Browns a couple times after that, and they were able to run out the clock with Pierce handling the load.
Baltimore moves to 1-1 and is tied for first place in the AFC North while the Browns fell to 0-2. The Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) and Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) face off Monday Night.
The Ravens have now beaten their AFC North rival Browns 11 straight times. It’s the NFL’s longest active winning streak one team has over another. But yet again, it wasn’t easy.
“It was huge,” linebacker