As the clock ticked down to triple zeros this afternoon and the Ravens officially earned a 20-10 win over the Browns, they immediately went from being heated rivals with the Browns to Cleveland supporters.
On the spot, the hits and trash talk morphed into hugs and well wishes.
Today’s victory obviously clinched a playoff spot for the boys from Baltimore, but it also kept their hopes of a AFC North title alive going into the final week of the season. The Ravens kept pace with the Steelers today, and matched Pittsburgh’s 11-4 record.
Now, they’ll need to pull for the Browns to bounce back from this loss and pull off an upset over the Steelers next Sunday.
If Cleveland is able to score the win next week and the Ravens beat the Bengals in their regular-season finale, Baltimore would leapfrog the Steelers for the division title.
Their reward for such a feat would be threefold: The Ravens would earn a first-round bye, would get their divisional round game at home in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium and would have the all-important bragging rights over their arch rivals.
One thing I think was important today was that, while the Ravens got the job done and picked up the win over the Browns, Cleveland put up a good fight and showed that they are very much capable of beating Pittsburgh next weekend.
The Browns held the Ravens to just 258 total yards and 20 points despite turning the ball over four times, Cleveland moved the ball fairly well on offense (although Colt McCoy would be wise to stop throwing jump balls with multiple defenders in the area) and Josh Cribbs showed signs of life in the return game.
On top of that, while Browns running back Peyton Hillis apparently suffered a rib injury on a first quarter hit from Ed Reed, he told reporters after the game that he plans to play against the Steelers, which is a good sign for those pulling for Cleveland.
The Browns dropped this one today, but they showed fairly well against a hot Ravens team. Now, they’ll have another chance to play spoiler and will go into their game with Pittsburgh able to build off some of the positives from today.
And this time, they’ll have the full backing of their old friends in Baltimore.