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BALTIMORE — Myles Garrett shook Lamar Jackson's hand and gave him a pat on the back while Jadeveon Clowney removed his helmet and threw it on the ground.
The Browns starting defensive ends had contrasting reactions to the Baltimore Ravens quarterback delivering a dagger to Cleveland's playoff hopes.
Emotions were all over the place as the Browns fell 16-10 to the AFC North-leading Ravens on “Sunday Night Football” at M&T Bank Stadium, though immense frustration is the overwhelming sentiment.
After the game, Garrett revealed he told Jackson he made "a hell of a play."
Jackson's remarkable play unfolded on third-and-10 from the Cleveland 13-yard line. He dropped back and avoided Clowney's diving attempt at a sack. Then he scrambled and launched a pass from the 35 a split second before Garrett hit his right arm.
The ball traveled to the middle of the end zone, where tight end Mark Andrew was wide open and waiting for it. The 13-yard touchdown reception allowed the Ravens to go ahead by 10 points with 9:48 left in the third quarter.
In a postgame news conference, Browns cornerback Denzel Ward blamed himself for the play, explaining he should have stuck to Andrews in coverage.
With five games left, the Browns will need a miraculous run to live their playoff dreams because their postseason chances took a devastating blow in front of a national audience in prime time.
A win would have positioned the Browns well to capture their first division title since 1989, but now they'll be lucky to earn a wild-card berth. Virtually no wiggle room exists. Winning out might be the only way to answer their prayers. It's a rude awakening for a franchise that entered the season with what it considered legitimate Super Bowl expectations.
In last place in the AFC North, the Browns (6-6) have a bye this week. Their next game will be a rematch against the Ravens (8-3) on Dec. 12 at FirstEnergy Stadium. While the Browns are resting, the Ravens will visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 5. Earlier Sunday, the Steelers (5-5-1) were blown out 41-10 by the Cincinnati Bengals (7-4).
The Ravens are the top seed in the AFC's playoff standings. The Browns are 12th. The top seven teams in each conference qualify for the postseason.
A .500 record through 12 games is not close to where the Browns thought they would be.
Jackson's touchdown pass gave the Ravens a 13-3 lead, but the Browns fought back. They trimmed their deficit to 13-10 with 39 seconds left in the third quarter, when tight end David Njoku caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield on second-and-9. The play survived a replay review examining whether the ball had hit the ground or Njoku's right thigh before he secured it.
Edge rusher Tyus Bowser's roughing the passer penalty assisted the Browns on their five-play, 87-yard touchdown march.
But the bottom line is the Browns offense failed to find enough firepower again. They have scored more than 17 points just once in their past seven games.
Safety John Johnson III gave the Browns a jolt of momentum when he intercepted a deep pass Jackson intended for Andrews at Cleveland's 13 with 12:54 left in the fourth quarter. It was Jackson's fourth interception of the game, but the Browns scored just three points off those picks.
On the series following Johnson's interception, Bowser rushed around Blake Hance, who replaced All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin when he suffered a right knee injury in the first quarter, and sacked Mayfield for a 7-yard loss on second-and-13 from the Cleveland 38, essentially killing the drive.
The Browns punted two plays later, and the Ravens ended the ensuing 11-play, 45-yard drive with Justin Tucker's 49-yard field goal, which gave them a 16-10 advantage with 1:10 left to play.
In need of a game-winning drive, Mayfield threw three consecutive incomplete passes – with tight end Austin Hooper failing to secure a third-down ball. On fourth-and-10, Mayfield connected with Njoku, but Bowser tackled him 3 yards short of a first down. The turnover on downs with 48 seconds left to play sealed the Browns' defeat.
Mayfield has been quarterbacking through an injured left, non-throwing shoulder since Week 2. He suffered heel, knee and groin injuries in recent weeks.
He struggled mightily with his accuracy last week in a 13-10 win over the Detroit Lions and bailed on his postgame news conference, blaming frustration with his individual performance.
Mayfield went 18-of-37 passing (48.6%) against the Ravens for 247 yards and a touchdown without an interception for a rating of 79.4.
After the game, Stefanski said making a quarterback change during the bye is not a possibility.
The Browns got some of their best players back from injury. Star running back Kareem Hunt returned after missing five games with a right calf injury, and Conklin came back after missing three games with a dislocated left elbow.
Unfortunately for the Browns, Conklin didn't make it through one quarter upon his return, and the NFL's No. 1-ranked rushing attack had just 40 yards on 17 carries (2.4 average). Running back Nick Chubb had eight carries for 16 yards (2 average), and Hunt had seven carries for 20 yards (2.9 average).
It was far from perfect, but Jackson had a better comeback after missing the Ravens' 16-13 win over the Chicago Bears last week game because of an illness.
Jackson finished 20-of-32 passing (62.5%) for 165 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions for a rating of 46.5.
Jackson became the first quarterback since 2013 to win a game in which he threw four interceptions, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Quarterbacks had lost 41 consecutive games when throwing four picks.
Since John Harbaugh became the head coach of the Ravens in 2008, he has gone 23-4 against the Browns. The Ravens are 18-2 in prime-time home games under Harbaugh.
Even though the Browns went 11-5 last season to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, they went 0-2 versus the Ravens in their first year under coach Kevin Stefanski.
The Browns have lost their past four games against the Ravens. The Browns haven't prevailed in the series since Sept. 29, 2019, when they won 40-25 in Baltimore.
Cleveland Browns trailed Baltimore Ravens 6-3 at halftime after turnover frenzy
The Browns and Ravens combined for five turnovers in the final 3:04 of the second quarter, and Cleveland trailed 6-3 at halftime.
The wild sequence began when Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry took a direct snap on first-and-10 at the Baltimore 34 and was strip-sacked by rookie edge rusher Odafe Oweh. Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen recovered the fumble at the Baltimore 35 with 3:04 left in the first half.
Two plays later, Browns linebacker Malcolm Smith deflected a Jackson pass, and Ward dived to intercept it at the Cleveland 47 with 2:29 left in the second quarter.
The Browns cashed in with Chase McLaughlin's successful 46-yard field goal, which was good with 1:02 left in the second quarter despite hitting the left upright.
On the next play from scrimmage, safety Grant Delpit intercepted a pass from Jackson, giving the Browns possession at the Baltimore 28 with 56 seconds left in the second quarter. But two plays later, Mayfield dropped the ball under pressure from Oweh, who recovered the fumble at the Baltimore 49 with 45 seconds left in the half.
The Ravens encountered second-and-12 at the Cleveland 40 when safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. intercepted a pass from Jackson with 21 seconds left before halftime.
All four of Jackson's interceptions were on passes intended for Andrews.
Cleveland Browns commit penalties, helping Baltimore Ravens take early lead
The Browns were flagged for two penalties on the Ravens' nine-play, 41-yard scoring drive in the first quarter.
On fourth-and-2 from their 33, the Ravens faked a punt and gained a first down, but the play was nullified because the officials ruled the Browns weren't given enough time to substitute.
Then the Ravens lined up to go for it, the Browns had too many men on the field and called timeout with 3:11 left in the first quarter.
After the timeout, the Browns had a 12th defender on the field again and were penalized 5 yards, giving the Ravens a first down.
On second-and-9 from the Baltimore 39, Jackson ran for 6 yards, and defensive tackle Malik McDowell hit him late out of bounds for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
Four plays later, the Ravens settled for Tucker's successful 52-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 24 seconds left in the first quarter.
Cleveland Browns All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett ties single-season franchise sack record
Filling the role of Browns game captain, Garrett sacked Jackson for the just second time in his career on the Ravens' first possession of the game.
With Garrett's 14th sack this season, he tied the official single-season franchise record. Reggie Camp set the record in 1984.
Bill Glass owns the team's unofficial sack record. The Browns credit Glass with 14½ sacks in 1965, but pro-football-reference.com gives him 16½ in the same season. Sacks didn't become an official stat until 1982.
Myles Garrett gets into record book: Defensive end ties Browns sack record against Ravens
Later, the Ravens faced third-and-goal at the 1 when Garrett batted a pass from Jackson, forcing it to fall incomplete. The Ravens lined up to go for it on fourth-and-goal, but a false-start penalty called on former Browns guard Kevin Zeitler changed those plans.
The Ravens resorted to Tucker's 25-yard field goal at the end of a 17-play, 59-yard drive and led 6-0 with 3:53 left in the second quarter.
Cleveland Browns squander opportunity to put points on the scoreboard
The Browns started the game with the ball and advanced to the Baltimore 28, where Mayfield threw incomplete to receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones on third-and-6. During the play, Peoples-Jones failed to create separation from cornerback Marlon Humphrey on a go route. Earlier in the drive, Peoples-Jones dropped a pass for a would-be first down near the Baltimore 10-yard line on first-and-10 from the 33.
Stefanski settled for a field goal, but McLaughlin missed a 46-yard attempt wide left with 11:41 remaining in the first quarter.
In Stefanski's postgame interview, he said the Browns would continue to count on McLaughlin down the stretch.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Browns playoff hopes take blow with loss to Ravens