As Cleveland's game-winning field goal sailed through the uprights, the Ravens felt the frustration of letting an important AFC North game slip away.
Leading by 14 points early in the fourth quarter, the Ravens allowed 16 unanswered points by the Cleveland Browns and fell, 33-31, at M&T Bank Stadium. The loss snapped Baltimore's four-game win streak and pulled the Browns (6-3) closer to the Ravens (7-3) in the NFL's most competitive division.
Here on my thoughts on a disappointing loss for the Ravens, who have a short week before hosting the Bengals (5-4) on Thursday Night Football:
Protecting Fourth-Quarter Leads Remains an Issue
The Ravens would be 10-0 this season if all their games ended after the third quarter.
They've suffered all three losses entering the fourth quarter with the lead, and the fourth-quarter woes returned against the Browns. Cleveland gashed the Ravens for 178 yards rushing and received an inspired effort from quarterback Deshaun Watson, who made key scrambles and throws to sustain drives. Watson (20 for 34, 213 yards, one touchdown, one interception, 37 yards rushing) didn't play Week 4 when the Ravens won in Cleveland, but he made his imprint on this game and was the catalyst for the comeback.
In a matchup of the league's top-ranked defenses, Baltimore's unit didn't measure up with the game on the line. Cleveland's three possessions of the second half were two 75-yard touchdowns drive and a 58-yard drive that ended with Dustin Hopkins' 40-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
When a 1-yard touchdown run by Gus Edwards put the Ravens ahead, 31-17, with 11:34 remaining, it looked like Baltimore would roll to its fifth straight win. But the Browns moved the ball at will. They answered Edwards' score with a 75-yard touchdown drive, then scored a defensive touchdown when Lamar Jackson's pass was deflected by Ogbo Okoronkwo into the arms of Greg Newsome, who returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.
That made the score 31-30, and even when Hopkins missed the extra point, the Browns had momentum and the Ravens couldn't stop it. Baltimore's defense prides itself on being one of the NFL's best and giving up chunks of yards to the Browns in key situations felt like a slap in the face.
"Definitely loss that shouldn't have happened," defensive tackle Justin Madubuike said. "But every week you're supposed to come bring your best and we didn't do that today, so we've got to get better."
Baltimore's Offense Is Still Searching for Consistency
Do the Ravens have a diverse offense with quick-strike ability? Yes.
Do they have the offensive consistency they're seeking through 10 games? No.
The Ravens came up empty on three of their final four possessions and didn't move the ball effectively in the fourth quarter when their defense needed a rest. Baltimore's final touchdown was set up by a gift from former Ravens wide receiver James Proche II, who muffed a punt on Cleveland's 12-yard line to give the Ravens a short field.
The Ravens entered the game leading the NFL in rushing, and they don't have to rely as much on a ground-and-pound attack as they've done in years past. The infusion of more playmakers and the way Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken is utilizing them has made Baltimore more capable of producing big plays.
Baltimore's first two offensive touchdowns came on explosive plays — a 39-yard run by Keaton Mitchell and a 40-yard pass from Jackson to Odell Beckham Jr.
Once Mitchell gets into space, he's a threat to take it to the house. You can almost feel the backdraft when he turns the corner, and he can reach full speed in the blink of an eye.
However, the offensive performance was choppy. Jackson threw two interceptions, the offense was held to 303 total yards and didn't put the game away in the fourth quarter.
"These are the type of games you've got to win, you've got to be great at, everybody's got to lock in," tight end Mark Andrews said. "No matter what happens in the first half, third quarter, when it comes to that fourth quarter it's time to go.
"We had control of the game. We had plenty of chances to win this game."
Injuries Could Be a Major Issue
Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey (ankle) and starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) left the game and did not return. Starting right guard Kevin Zeitler hobbled off the field late in the game and did not return.
The Ravens entered the game as healthy as they have been all season, but they did not leave it that way. Any player who is banged up will have a shorter week to get ready for Thursday's game and the Ravens would miss Humphrey against the Bengals' passing attack led by Joe Burrow.
"Marlon's a big piece of the defense," cornerback Brandon Stephens said. "But it's next man has to step up, regardless of who's in there."
The Plot in the AFC North Thickens
The Browns (6-3) and Steelers (6-3) are nipping at the Ravens' heels, with the Bengals (5-4) still not out of the picture even after losing on Sunday.
It's going to be a wild race to the finish in the AFC North, starting with Thursday night's matchup against the Bengals. Both teams will be coming off tough defeats, and it will be interesting to see which team responds best after a short week.
If the Ravens don't win, they will fall from being talked about as the best team in the league and into second place in the division.
"I thought we played hard, we fought, we competed, but we did not play well enough," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We did not play the kind of winning football we need to win a game like that. We've got to put it behind us. It's a long season in the NFL, you have games like this, you do lose games like this. We've got to bounce back and play our best football on Thursday night."
- Kyle Hamilton's pick-six on the second play of the game was another example of his effectiveness as a blitzer. Watson thought he had thrown the ball high enough to allude Hamilton, but he leapt up and tipped the pass to himself and waltzed into the end zone.
- Madubuike had a sack and extended his streak with at least 0.5 sack to seven consecutive games, a franchise record. The Ravens sacked Watson four times and lead the NFL with 39 sacks.
- Odell Beckham's 40-yard touchdown reception was his second trip to the end zone in two games, and the first time he's scored touchdowns in back-to-back games since 2021.
- With five catches, Zay Flowers has 50 receptions on the season to tie Torrey Smith (2011) for most catches by a rookie in franchise history.
- Edwards has eight touchdowns this season, tying Mark Ingram (2019) and Ray Rice (2011) for most rushing touchdowns through eight games in franchise history.