Up 20-0 late in the third quarter, everything was going as planned for the Ravens.
Their defense was suffocating, their offense was rolling and piling up points without top wide receiver Anquan Boldin and they appeared poised to roll to an 11-4 record.
Then Cleveland stormed back.
The Browns rattled off 14 straight second-half points, making it a one-score game and causing the 71,083 at M&T Bank Stadium to start getting a little antsy.
With the game on the line, however, the Browns remembered they were the Browns.
Having used all their timeouts, Cleveland was unable to stop the clock late in the game, and when it appeared they were going to get the ball back with just under two minutes left, rookie defensive tackle Phi Taylor jumped offside on fourth-and-2, giving the Ravens a first down when they were clearly not planning on even snapping the ball.
Quite a Christmas present from a team that is clearly poorly-coached and has numerous mental errors at key times.
It’s not a pretty win, but a major one. The Ravens now are just a win away from clinching the AFC North title and a first-round bye, which can be accomplished at Cincinnati next weekend.
The Ravens opened the scoring on their first drive of the game. A Lardarius Webb interception gave Baltimore starting field position at their own 36-yard line, and following a 60-yard pass interference penalty on Browns safety Mike Adams, Flacco hit tight end Ed Dickson for a five-yard touchdown.
A Shayne Graham field goal on the Ravens’ next possession made it 10-0, and a 42-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Rice on the following series put the Ravens up by 17 with just 21 minutes having elapsed.
The Browns had a shot to cut into the Baltimore lead late in the first half, but poor clock management left them without a timeout and unable to get a play off as time expired at the end of the second quarter.
Josh Cribbs returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter and Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace connected with tight end Evan Moore on a six-yard touchdown with over eight minutes remaining, making it just a one-score game.
But the Ravens were able to milk enough clock they and allowed the Browns to shoot themselves in the foot in crunch time.
Back with more in a few.