The Cleveland Browns built a 20-0 first quarter lead in the blink of an eye.
Unfortunately, it vanished slowly as the Ravens chipped away and the game ended in agony once again for fans.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t the worst collapse in franchise history, just the third-worst. So they have that going for them. The Browns blew a 23-point lead on Nov. 10, 1991 in a 32-30 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and they led the Detroit Lions by 21 on Nov. 22, 2009 and lost 38-37.
Regardless of rank, it was yet another snatch defeat right from the jaws of victory day for the Browns who ran out to a 20-0 lead before you could even yell an obscenity about the Baltimore Ravens.
Then first-year head coach Hue Jackson got his first taste of what it really means to coach the Browns – another injured quarterback and another bizarre game that featured an epic collapse, which have become pretty standard over the years here in Cleveland. So, welcome to the party coach.
Here’s a look at 7 key plays that led to a stunning change of fortune for the Browns Sunday afternoon.
Time: 5:15, first quarter
Score: 14-0 Browns
Situation: 3rd and 8
What went wrong: Quarterback Josh McCown delivers a 14-yard strike to tight end Gary Barnidge for a first down but is hit by Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who drove him hard into the turf. On the next play McCown, who was favoring his left arm, swung a quick pass to Corey Coleman, who made a nice move at the 5 and dove into the end zone to score an 11-yard TD. After the series McCown had to be taken to the locker room for evaluation. Although McCown returned to the game and finished it, he took several more hits to the shoulder and was limited the rest of the afternoon.
“I think it is just not wanting to not be out there with your guys,” McCown said. “I have a dad and an older brother who get up and go to work and sometimes they don’t feel great and they go. They go and they grind. I have two little boys that are playing football now. They get hit and they get banged up, and I am trying to teach them what toughness means. For me, it is those things and just knowing the window for me right now and understanding that I don’t want to miss snaps. I don’t want to be out there without my guys. Unless it is going to fall off, let’s try to make it work and make it go. That is my mentality.”
Time: 4:34, first quarter
Score: 20-0 Browns
Situation: PAT attempt following Corey Coleman’s second TD reception
What went wrong: Ravens defensive end Lawrence Guy got a push in on John Greco and blocked the attempt off of kicker Patrick Murray’s foot. Cornerback Tavon Young scooped up the ball and raced 64 yards for 2 with Murray in his rear view mirror.
“When you look at the point swing, that is what people will point to will be the difference,” Jackson said. “Obviously, it had a huge effect on the game, but there were so many other plays that I saw that we were standing out there that we had chances at.”
Time: 10:40, second quarter
Score: 20-2 Browns
Situation: 4th and 2 at the Ravens 36
What went wrong: Browns elect to go for it but center Cam Erving is whistled for a false start backing the offense up 5 yards and forcing them to punt instead of remaining aggressive, in a position to add to the lead and lower the boom on Baltimore.
Time: 0:49, second quarter
Score: 20-9 Browns
Situation: 1st and 10 at own 30
What went wrong: McCown throws a pass deep up the far sideline, but he overthrows Rashard Higgins by 5 yards and Ravens safety Eric Weddle catches it at the Ravens 39 and scoots out-of-bounds.
“I am just disappointed in myself for that one. It can’t happen,” McCown said. “Higgins was trying to and was working a guy on the route, and he and I have to get on the same page on what was going on. If I can get off of him and check the ball down or something but just keep the ball in play and not turn it over there at the half and not give them three, I think we let a little bit of momentum go there.”
Baltimore quickly went 7 plays and 27 yards before Justin Tucker kicked a 52-yard field goal as time expired to make it a 20-12 game at intermission with the Ravens slated to receive the second half kickoff. The momentum the Browns built in the first quarter is now gone and the roof has begun caving in.
Time: 14:32, fourth quarter
Score: 20-19 Browns
Situation: 2nd and 15 at Ravens 21
What went wrong: Rookie wide receiver Corey Coleman got into a tussle with Ravens cornerback Jimmie Smith during a 2-yard run by Isaiah Crowell. Coleman took a swipe at Smith prompting Smith to shove Coleman and swing back but it was Coleman who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty pushed the Browns back to the Ravens 34 yard line and a third and 28. Patrick Murray missed badly wide right on a 52-yard field goal attempt.
“Just being competitive,” Coleman said. “I can’t do that. I can’t do stuff that costs us penalties and puts us in negative yards.”
Coleman’s penalty short circuited a crucial drive and put the Ravens in the driver’s seat to complete the comeback.
Time: 0:27, fourth quarter
Score: 25-20 Ravens
Situation: 1st and 10 at Ravens 30.
What went wrong: McCown completes a 20-yard pass to Terrelle Pryor on the far sideline. Ravens safety Lardarius Webb is flagged for holding Pryor but Pryor is flagged for taunting after flipping the football which hit Webb in the helmet and shoulder nullifying the play.
“There’s other people that can catch a ball and spin it and look at players in the face,” Pryor said. “But if I get up and drop the ball, clearly I wasn’t trying to drop it on nobody. But I’ll let coach Jackson handle that.”
Score: 25-20 Ravens
Situation: 1st and 10 at Ravens 30
What went wrong: McCown looks for Pryor deep over the middle near the goal line but Ravens safety C.J. Mosely gets in front of Pryor to pick off the pass at the 1. And ballgame.
“I know everybody wants to say we just threw it up and it is on Josh,” Jackson said. “It is not on Josh. At the end of the day, he has obviously got to protect the ball better, but again, I know he was trying to make a play and I take responsibility for all that. The guy battled his tail off, and I know he played under a little duress from their defensive front. Also, he was battling a little injury but he fought as hard as he could.”