Dec 28, 2014 6:59 PM
Ravens beat Browns 20-10 to earn playoff berth
The Associated Press
BALTIMORE (AP) The Baltimore Ravens couldn't help watching the scoreboard in the midst of a game they had to win to reach the playoffs.
Baltimore earned a wild-card card berth Sunday by defeating the Cleveland Browns 20-10 and getting an assist halfway across the country.
To enter the postseason for the sixth time in seven years, the Ravens (10-6) needed to beat the Browns (7-9) and have San Diego lose in Kansas City.
A 17-point fourth quarter took care of the initial segment of that scenario, and the Chiefs did their part with a 19-7 win over the Chargers.
The Ravens knew what was happening in the other game.
"There is no not seeing the scoreboard. It's all over the place," quarterback Joe Flacco said.
"When we were down 10-3, yeah, we were paying attention," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We had to handle our business, and we did."
The first part of Baltimore's playoff equation seemed easy enough, given that the Browns had lost four straight, were starting rookie quarterback Connor Shaw and had dropped 12 of their past 13 against Baltimore.
But the Ravens trailed 10-3 in the fourth quarter.
A field goal narrowed the gap, and Baltimore took the lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Torrey Smith with 7:33 left.
Flacco's 2-yard TD throw to Kamar Aiken with 3:44 remaining clinched it.
"Today it was struggle, struggle, struggle," said Flacco, who went 8 for 9 for 161 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He finished 22 for 36 for 312 yards, and the two TD passes gave him a career-high 27 for the season.
"Anything can happen when you get into the playoffs," he said. "I won't be surprised if in three weeks from now we're still sitting here playing."
For three quarters, the Ravens stumbled offensively just as they did one week earlier in a 25-13 loss in Houston. As the game wore on, the home fans showed their dissatisfaction by booing before yet another Baltimore punt.
"These guys want to be sitting on the couch, having parties and cheering for us in a week," Flacco said.
Justin Forsett had 119 yards rushing for the Ravens, who will open on the road next weekend.
With quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel out with injuries, Shaw made his NFL debut for Cleveland. The Browns were also without suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon, and they placed cornerback Justin Gilbert on the inactive list after the rookie reportedly showed up late for a team meeting.
"I'm not going to address those guys," coach Mike Pettine said. "To me, it's disrespectful to the guys who put the uniforms on today and played their hearts out for the Cleveland Browns. ... There were guys who didn't need to out there and play, who could have shut it down and didn't."
Despite being short-handed, the Browns stuck with a team playing with a postseason berth on the line.
"We had our chances. I thought we executed our plan well for three quarters and just couldn't finish," Pettine said. "In a lot of ways, it was a microcosm of our season."
The Browns took a 10-3 lead in the third quarter when Shaw went 3 for 3 during an 80-yard drive. Shaw scrambled in the pocket before connecting on a 49-yard completion to rookie Taylor Gabriel, who started in place of Gordon. That was followed by a 2-yard touchdown run by Terrance West.
Baltimore closed to 10-6 with 10:37 left when Justin Tucker kicked a 28-yard field goal after a 39-yard completion from Flacco to tight end Owen Daniels.
Cleveland followed with three straight runs and a punt, giving the Ravens the ball again with 8:23 to go.
Flacco completed a 53-yarder to Smith before hitting the wide receiver on the next play for the go-ahead score.
West ran for 94 yards and Shaw went 14 for 28 for 177 yards, but the Browns finished the season with five straight losses and serious off-the-field issues that must be resolved not the least of which is at quarterback.
"It's pretty obvious that it's still a big question mark," said Pettine, whose job for next year is safe. Owner Jimmy Haslam said that Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer "absolutely" will return.
There were more fumbles (three) than scoring plays in a first half that ended tied at 3.
Shaw launched his professional career by moving the Browns to the Baltimore 25 before fumbling a snap and losing the ball.
Notes: Baltimore played without left tackle Eugene Monroe (ankle). ... Ravens DT Timmy Jernigan left with a foot injury. ... Browns LB Chris Kirksey left with a hamstring injury.
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