Browns, Ravens both need a win
BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens are no longer winless. The scent is more tolerable.
The Ravens were in danger of falling to 0-4 before rallying past the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime last Thursday.
“It was good to get that stink off us,” running back Justin Forsett said.
The Cleveland Browns are also 1-3, so the loser Sunday faces a tough road ahead. Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, 206 teams have started 1-4. Only 10, a scant 5 percent, rallied to reach the postseason, according to STATS.
“We’re not in the clear by any means,” Forsett said. “They’re all must-win for us.”
The Ravens have reached the playoffs in six of the last seven years. The Browns haven’t qualified for the postseason since 2002. This year, though, both teams are currently on even ground.
How they got there is pretty similar. Baltimore’s three losses have come by a total of 14 points, and the Browns have dropped two straight by a combined 10 points.
“Both teams have played well for periods of time, but not well enough to finish games and win,” Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said. “The Ravens very easily could be 3-1 or 4-0, and we could point to a handful of plays in our games and make the same argument.”
The Ravens, who have their roots in Cleveland, have won 13 of the last 14 against the Browns and are 24-8 in this, er, rivalry.
“It’s hard for me to call it a rivalry sitting in this seat because it’s been so one-sided,” Pettine said. “It’s our goal to get that changed.”
Some things to know about this AFC North matchup:
STARTED AT THE BOTTOM: Despite their efforts to improve the NFL’s worst rushing defense from last season, the Browns are ranked 31st, allowing 141.5 yards per game.
Beyond that, the Browns are giving up chunk yardage and have been burned by long plays — on the ground and in the air.
“Man, we just got to make plays,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “You don’t really see teams slowly marching. We got to make sure that we stay tight or it’ll be somebody running through our defense uncovered.”
TO GLORY: Forsett broke loose for 150 yards rushing against Pittsburgh after being limited to 13 yards on 10 carries on Sept. 27 against Cincinnati.
“We just had a little more room for different reasons,” coach John Harbaugh said.
The 150 yards were more than Forsett had in his first three games combined and second most in his career.
“We didn’t do everything right in that game, so we have some errors we can work on,” Forsett said. “But that was definitely a starting point.”
LIFE WITHOUT SUGGS: The loss of linebacker Terrell Suggs with a season-ending Achilles tendon tear has provided more playing time for Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil and rookie Za’Darius Smith.
Dumervil has sacks in each of the last two games and Smith got the first two of his career against Pittsburgh.
“The more guys play, the more experience they get and the better they get,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “The first person you think of is Za’Darius Smith.”
No one, however, can replace the boisterous, mischievous Suggs in the huddle.
“We lost a leader, and we definitely feel it every day,” Mosley said. “We don’t hear anybody talking and screaming. But you have to move on, and people have to step up.”
NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Pettine has emphasized wins inside the division, something the Browns have not been very good at over the past decade. Cleveland went 2-4 last year against AFC North opponents, with two of those defeats coming against the Ravens. The Browns have lost seven straight in Baltimore since 2007.
“We made strides last year and closed the gap on some of the teams in the division,” Pettine said. “We will see where we stand with Baltimore.”
Because of injuries, the Browns were forced to start rookie quarterback Connor Shaw in last season’s finale. Cleveland took a lead into the fourth quarter before losing 20-10.
QUARTERBACK DUEL: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is 13-1 lifetime against Cleveland, throwing 18 TD passes compared to only seven interceptions. He has at least one TD pass in seven straight games vs. the Browns.
Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown comes in with a hot hand. He threw for 356 yards against San Diego last week, and against Baltimore he could become the first player in Browns history to throw for 300 yards in three straight games.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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