Baltimore Ravens defeat Browns; remain atop of the AFC North

Early on in the game the Baltimore Ravens (11-4) played like they wanted this game, actually they played like they needed this game. When in all reality the Ravens really did need the 20-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns (4-11) to get one step closer to their first AFC North title in 5 years. The Ravens offense played two completely different halves, but their defense did just enough to give them the victory in the end.

From the looks of it, early on, it seemed as if the Ravens were going to ruin the Browns Christmas by completely beating them to a pulp. In their first three drives the Ravens scored two touchdowns and a field goal, and they looked as if they were clicking on all cylinders. Baltimore’s first touchdown came from tight end Ed Dickson, as he caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco That touchdown was set up from a 60-yard pass interference call on safety Mike Adams on Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. Then the Ravens followed up that drive with a 48-yard field goal from newly acquired kicker Shayne Graham. To follow that up, Joe Flacco connected with Ray Rice for a 42-yard touchdown pass, as Rice completely burned Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.

Going into the locker room the Ravens must have felt that they had this game in the bag because the offense looked lackadaisical in the second half. They started the third quarter with two punts and another Shayne Graham field goal. After the field goal the Ravens were forced to punt twice, and Joe Flacco threw an interception to cornerback Sheldon Brown. Their lack of offense in the second half almost caused the Ravens to collapse, as the Browns made a late run.

After a scoreless first half, the Cleveland Browns got a much needed spark, as kick returner Joshua Cribbs had a career high 84-yard punt return for a touchdown. They followed up that drive with a 80-yard drive that ended in a 6-yard touchdown reception from tight end Evan Moore.

Cleveland had a chance to try and get the lead from the Ravens, but an offside call on defensive tackle Phil Jackson on 4th and 2, gave the Ravens a fresh set of downs with very little time left.

Ray Rice had another field day against the Browns defense, as he not only rushed the ball for 87-yards, Rice also had 48-yards receiving and a touchdown. His counterpart, Peyton Hillis, had a season high 112-yards on the ground.

Both quarterbacks struggled for the most part today, as they both struggled to find a rhythm. Flacco went 11 of 24 for only 132-yards and two touchdowns. Seneca Wallace went 19 of  33 for 147-yards and one touchdown. Both quarterbacks threw an interception and there were very few highlight throws.

If the Ravens win next week in Cincinnati they will win the AFC North, and they will have a first-round bye along with a home playoff game. If New England losses next week the Ravens will win the AFC, and be the number one seed.