Defense Shoulders Loss After Another Late Collapse


It was an all-too-familiar song for the Ravens defense Sunday afternoon in a 33-30 overtime loss to the visiting Cleveland Browns.

Once again, Baltimore's defense allowed late-game drives to the opponent. Once again, the secondary got torched.

Cleveland scored 24 points after halftime. Journeyman quarterback Josh McCown threw for 457 yards – the third-most against the Ravens in franchise history. He's one of just five quarterbacks to throw for more than 400 yards against Baltimore.

"I'm the first to say, I put this on the defense as a whole," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "We didn't come through today. We were supposed to show up and we did not show up in the second half."

The defense started out well. It largely shut down the Browns for the first half, allowing just nine points on three field goals.

But as injuries mounted, Baltimore's unit fared worse and worse. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin) and cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (thigh) and Will Davis (knee) all went down in the first half. Add that to the loss of Terrell Suggs for the season.

The Browns gritted out a 13-play, 75-yard drive at the end of the third quarter to cut the Ravens' lead to 21-16. Then they breezed down the field on two other fourth-quarter touchdown drives. One was 79 yards on just four plays in one minute, 42 seconds. The other was 80 yards on six plays in just 2:53.

Even when it looked like the Ravens had the Browns stopped, Lady Luck went against Baltimore. The Browns' first fourth-quarter touchdown came on an 18-yard catch by tight end Gary Barnidge that would have fallen incomplete and forced a field-goal attempt, had it not bounced off his leg, then been trapped against his butt with his feet.

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The Browns drove 51 yards on 12 plays in overtime to get in position for the win. Baltimore had them in third down just twice and failed to get off the field either time.

"We've just got to finish," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "That's No. 1 right now. We've got to figure out a way to get these games won."

After dominating most of the game, the Ravens defense allowed a 17-play, 11-minute late-game drive in Denver that helped the Broncos hold on for a win. The defense watched Derek Carr and the Raiders march down the field for a game-winning touchdown in a 37-33 loss. Two late-game touchdowns by Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green sunk the Ravens in their last game at M&T Bank Stadium.

The problem is, there's not an easy fix to finishing. There's not an easy fix to any problem in the NFL, but this one is difficult to put a finger on because it comes down to doing many things better.

"We've got to go back to the drawing board and get right," Smith said. "Our technique has got to get better. We can't be having penalties in clutch situations. We've got to get off the field on third down."

Much of the problem has been the pass defense, which seemed to come alive in Pittsburgh behind Smith, Webb and Davis. With two-thirds of that equation gone, Kyle Arrington and safety Terrence Brooks were called upon to step in.

It didn't go well.

McCown has posted three straight weeks of more than 350 passing yards, but he's also a journeyman quarterback who has been with seven different teams over his 13 seasons. He consistently stepped up through pressure and found wide-open receivers.

Barnidge, a 30-year-old tight end who had never caught more than 13 passes before this season, snagged eight passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. His 19-yard catch and run in overtime put the Browns in range.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley put Barnidge's 19-yard catch, and much of his success on the day, on himself. But Browns defenders time and time again found openings in the Ravens' zone defense.

"The greater picture was we didn't cover the way we needed to," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Whether it was deep, whether it was immediate or whether it was short, we didn't get the job done in coverage."

The Ravens have now given up 351 passing yards to Carr, 383 to the Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and 457 to McCown. The secondary's best performance came in Pittsburgh, but that was against backup Michael Vick.

"Just like the last two losses, it's on the defense," Mosley said. "We played with the lead for a while, gave up big plays and at the end, we've just got to finish. We keep saying that, but we've got to do it."

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