As Baltimore Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis spectated from the sideline, Baltimore’s other Ray ran rapid over the Cleveland Browns.
Ray Rice rushed for a career-high 204 yards, busting loose on a 67-yard run in the third quarter, as the Ravens managed to stay atop the AFC North by dominating Cleveland 24-10 on Sunday.
Rice and backup Ricky Williams had short touchdown runs from inside the 10-yard line and Lardarius Webb returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown for the now 9-3 Ravens. Baltimore was able to rack up a season-high 290 yards on the ground, and were in such control that quarterback Joe Flacco took three knees to run out the final two minutes.
The Ravens leaned on the diminutive 5-foot-8, 212-pound, Rice on a cold, damp and blustery day, when Flacco struggled throwing the ball and kicker Billy Cundiff missed a pair of field-goal attempts.
Just one play after the Browns got back in the game with a Phil Dawson field-goal to make the score 10-3, Rice sealed the Browns’ fate with his long run.
Taking the handoff from Flacco at his own 27, Rice followed his blockers to the left, found a seam and cut back to the middle of the field. The Rutgers product was able to allude several pursing Browns near midfield before being taken down inside the Cleveland five. Then, it was Williams who carried twice, bowling in from the one to give Baltimore the two touchdown advantage.
It was the Ravens’ first game in 10 days and at times the offense appeared out of sync. However, they were finally able to silence some of their critics by beating an inferior opponent on the road following an emotional victory.
The Cleveland Browns have some major issues, to say the least.
Browns quarterback Colt McCoy finished an anemic 17 of 35 for 192 yards, throwing one touchdown and one interception. For his career, the 26-year-old McCoy, is now 0-7 against the AFC North, and did little to help his case in convincing Browns management he can be their quarterback of the future.
Baltimore dominated Cleveland in the first half in every facet of the game, but had just a 10-0 lead to show for it after the first 30 minutes of play.
The Ravens possessed the ball for 18:49 and racked up an impressive 158 yards rushing yards on 28 carries through the first half of play. In fact, at halftime, the Ravens had 260 total yards compared to the Browns’ 93. Incredibly, it was still really anyone’s game.
And it’s not like Cleveland didn’t have their chances or opportunities. Following Cundiff’s second missed field goal, the Browns had a chance to kill the clock and run into halftime locker room, trailing just 7-0. Instead, McCoy was intercepted by rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith, who returned the ball to Cleveland’s 15. With just 13 ticks left in the half, the Ravens settled for a 21-yard Cundiff field goal.
Despite everything that had transpired against the Browns, they managed to cut the Ravens 10-0 lead to 10-3, after a Phil Dawson 21-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Leading to the field goal drive for the Browns was a Flacco strip by Cleveland’s rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard. Following the strip, McCoy hooked up with a wide-open Peyton Hillis for a 52 yard gain to the Baltimore five yard line. But the Browns drive would stall from there, as tight end Evan Moore couldn’t hall in a McCoy passed that sailed through his hands in the back of the end zone.
The missed opportunity proved to be costly moments when Rice ran rapid.
Next up for the Ravens, the winless Indianapolis Colts, who travel to Baltimore with a miserable 0-12 record. It is important for the Ravens not to take the Colts lightly and look past this game.
Clearly, the Ravens have figured things out offensively, which is to get the ball into the hands of one of the most elusive and dynamic running backs in the entire NFL, Ray Rice.