Game Recap - Ravens at Browns

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With a 20-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens officially punched their ticket to the playoffs, marking the first time in franchise history they'll be dancing in three consecutive seasons.

Just where they will play remains to be seen, but the Ravens (11-4) took care of business when they had to.

In defeating a plucky Browns squad (5-10), the Ravens kept pace with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North race.

And, if the Browns upend the Steelers next week, the Ravens can take their first division crown in Head Coach John Harbaugh's tenure by beating the Cincinnati Bengals.

"This is where it starts, because we have an opportunity to accomplish what we dream of and what we work for," said Harbaugh.  "And, we're not done with the regular season yet. We knew we needed to get 11 [wins] to get into the playoffs, and that's turned out to be the case. 

"Now, we need to get to 12 for a chance to win the division."

To complete their history-making campaign, the Ravens knocked out Browns bruiser Peyton Hillis and harassed rookie quarterback Colt McCoy into making game-defining decisions.

Hillis finished with only 35 yards on 12 rushes.  Even though he racked up 144 against the Ravens in Week 3, Hillis was a nonfactor, perhaps partly because he was shaken up in the first quarter by a vicious hit to the back by Ed Reed.

In essence, the Ravens followed the line in the sand Ray Lewis drew for Hillis earlier in the week.

"We backed up what Ray said he was going to do," said linebacker Terrell Suggs.  "He had us dialed in.  In the first one, I said I didn't know his name.  He made sure we knew it at the end of the game. 

"He's one hell of a back, but we did our job today. We're playing for something bigger than just not letting him get 100 yards."

As for the young signal-caller, McCoy made the wrong choice more often than not.

In winds that gusted at 20 mph around Cleveland Browns Stadium, McCoy lofted a ball too far for wideout Mohamed Massaquoi that Lardarius Webb intercepted on the Browns' first offensive series.

Another deep ball to Massaquoi was picked off by Reed in the second quarter.

Even though the Browns struck first with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Massaquoi to fellow receiver Brian Robiskie on their second drive of the day, the Ravens wouldn't let another postseason berth slip by.

Baltimore pulled to within 7-3 with a 27-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff and didn't waste any more time in taking and keeping a lead.

On the play following Cundiff's successful boot, McCoy found Massaquoi near the right sideline. But as Chris Carr brought the 6-foor-2, 207-pounder to the turf, he punched the football out and linebacker Jameel McClain returned the fumble to Cleveland's 20-yard line.  

Three snaps later, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threaded a 15-yard pass over two defenders to receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the back of the end zone.

The Ravens had a crossing route for tight end Ed Dickson called, but Flacco went deeper, somehow working the ball in between Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown and safety Abram Elam.

"I felt that when I got the snap, the safety was kind of looking at Ed," said Flacco.  "He got caught up with him just enough, and T.J. made his break on the post route. I just had to throw it around the safety a little bit."

Houshmandzadeh, who caught a season-high four passes for 32 yards, was impressed with Flacco's pinpoint accuracy. 

"I think Joe put the ball to where [the safety] couldn't make a play on it," said Houshmandzadeh.  "I just had to focus on the ball, because he was right in the pathway of the ball.  You've got to make the most of your opportunities when you get them."

The Ravens never relinquished the lead, firing up their playoff buses along the way.

"I don't think we always make it look easy, but we're definitely getting used to it around here," Flacco said of the playoffs.  "Hopefully, we can continue to make it a habit."

Cundiff and Browns kicker Phil Dawson traded field goals just before halftime, and the Ravens came out firing after the break.

The Browns attempted an onside kick that failed to go the mandatory 10 yards.  Taking over possession at Cleveland's 38, Flacco needed three plays to fire a 22-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason.

As he hauled in the game-deciding score, Mason fought through obvious holding by Brown, giving the Ravens their first offensive touchdown in the second half in the last six games.

McCoy put a stake in his team's chances when he floated a deep pass to Masssaquoi at the goal line and Reed swooped in for his second interception of the game with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.

The Ravens now return home to M&T Bank Stadium for their season finale against the Bengals.  They know they are playoff-bound, but this Ravens team will be rooting for the Browns next Sunday to help them win the AFC North.

"I told some of the [Browns] to go get 'em next week coming off the field," Flacco said.  "It would definitely be nice to see those guys go and play Pittsburgh tough."

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