Browns squander chances in loss to Ravens, 23-21
CLEVELAND (AP) — The fake play — helped by Johnny Manziel’s superb acting — worked to perfection but got called back. One field goal hit the uprights, another was blocked.
The Browns had their chances Sunday.
They blew them all.
Seconds from another big win and a chance to hit the bye week with an unexpected winning record, Cleveland suffered another gut-wrenching loss this season as Justin Tucker kicked a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give the Baltimore Ravens a 23-21 win over the Browns.
“It’s going to be a long two weeks,” said quarterback Brian Hoyer, referring to the team’s upcoming bye. “I know we’re going to watch this film and be mad at ourselves. We had some opportunities to put this game away and we didn’t do it. It’s on us.”
Everyone was culpable. Offense. Defense. Special Teams. Coaching.
There was plenty of blame to go around as the Browns had their third straight game decided by a last-second field goal.
“I put this one on me,” said rookie coach Mike Pettine, who also faulted missed tackles and communications issues. “We didn’t coach well enough to win.”
Tucker’s boot, set up by Joe Flacco’s 32-yard pass to Steve Smith, who beat Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, capped another challenging week for the Ravens (2-1). They continue to be dogged by their management of Ray Rice’s domestic violence arrest and suspension, but there’s no denying their resolve on the field.
The Browns helped out by committing 12 penalties, botching the two field goals and failing to convert a third down in the fourth quarter. The biggest blunder was by rookie wide receiver rookie Taylor Gabriel, who fell after catching a long pass from Hoyer and failed to score what should have been an easy touchdown.
“We just have to finish better,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “We gotta grow up. We’re a young team. We made some plays out there. But we’ve got to make enough at the end when it counts to get us over the hump.”
Despite the tough loss, there were some positives for Cleveland.
Browns rookie running backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell each scored a rushing TD; linebacker Jabaal Sheard made a big stop on fourth down and Cleveland went toe-to-toe with one of the AFC North’s bullies until the final seconds.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Hoyer said. “We were on the other side this week, and it doesn’t feel good. Really when it comes down to it, we made a lot of plays but we didn’t make them when we really needed to. In this league, you have to do it when it’s on the line.”
Hoyer completed 19 of 25 passes for 290 yards, a strong performance that further quiets Manziel’s fans and gives Cleveland more hope it may finally have found its quarterback for the forseeable future. Hoyer, too, made a mistake when a TD pass to Miles Austin was wiped out because he crossed the line of scrimmage before releasing the ball.
Cleveland’s Billy Cundiff, who earlier missed from 50 yards, then had his 36-yard attempt blocked by Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson.
“I thought I hit a really good ball,” said Cundiff, who kicked a game-winner to beat New Orleans last week. “Then I heard the double thump. For a kicker, that’s one thing you do not want to hear.”
In the first half, the Browns fooled Baltimore’s defense with a trick play only to have it nullified by a penalty.
Manziel came in for one play in the second quarter and handed the ball to Crowell. Manziel started to run off the field but paused near the sideline where he pretended to be confused and have a conversation with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. With his back to the field, Manziel waited for Shanahan to say, ‘Go,’ and the rookie quarterback took off, catching a short pass from Hoyer and gaining 39 yards before he was knocked out of bounds.
However, the play was called back by an illegal shift and there seems to be some question whether the Browns broke a few other rules with their deception.
“We really got the look that we wanted, and we took off,” Manziel said. “Unfortunately, we got a penalty on it. But that’s how it goes.”
NOTES: Crowell and West are the first Browns rookies to record a rushing TD in the same game since 1979 (Dino Hall and Pat Moriarty). … After an incompletion on his third attempt, Hoyer completed 14 consecutive passes, tied for the fourth-longest streak in Browns history. … Hoyer has thrown 156 straight passes without an interception.
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