Browns defeat defending champion Ravens, looking lively at the half-season mark

Cleveland finds temporary relief to quarterback woes

David Hoffman, Staff Reporter

Despite a brief injury scare early in the game, Jason Campbell performed ably for the Browns as they notched their first win over rival Ravens in almost six years. Wide receiver Davone Bess stepped up with two touchdown catches for the team after losing a costly fumble the previous week that arguably cost the Browns a win and Greg Little turned in the best performance of his young career, hauling in seven catches for 122 yards. Coach Rob Chudzinski had implied during a media interview mere days before the game that both Little and Bess had been underperforming so far during the season. He challenged them to haul in more of the passes thrown their way and to make big plays out of those catches. Both of them were up for the challenge.

The game began on a high note for the Browns, with Campbell finding Bess in the corner of the end zone, staking the team to an early lead. The defense stepped up early on, forcing the Ravens to punt on four of their first five possessions. It wasn’t all rosy, though. In the middle of the second quarter, Campbell suffered an injury and had to be briefly pulled from the game. That forced maligned backup Brandon Weeden into the game, who lasted one drive that resulted in a “three and out” and a chorus of boos from the fans. After initial tests, Campbell proved healthy enough to reenter the game on the ensuing Browns possession. With an 11 point lead in hand and Campbell back on the field, it appeared the Browns were poised to give the Ravens more of a fight than expected. However, with time winding down in the first half, Joe Flacco led the Ravens down the field. A touchdown pass to wide receiver Marlon Brown cut the Browns’ lead to 14-10, and the outcome suddenly appeared to be in doubt.

 With the Ravens seemingly gaining momentum, the Browns restored order to their control of the game in the third quarter. After forcing a punt on the opening possession, Campbell once again engineered an efficient drive, which ended with him finding a wide-open Gary Barnidge running down the right sideline for an easy touchdown. After surrendering another touchdown to Flacco and the Ravens to make the game too close for comfort, the Browns iced the game with a long drive down the field in the fourth quarter. The drive took six and a half minutes off the game clock and left the Ravens with a mere 13 seconds to spare for a desperation comeback. There was no doubt at that point; the Browns had pinned the Ravens into a corner, and ultimately walked off the field victorious for the first time in four games.

With the victory, the Browns enter their bye week at 4-5, just one game behind the New York Jets for the final wild card playoff spot in the AFC. Their schedule down the stretch offers some hope, with a fair mixture of tough opponents and inferior competition. The key to their success or failure will be the quality of their quarterback play. As long as Weeden doesn’t step foot on the field again this season, the fans have good reason to put some faith in this team.