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(Sunday, December 26th)
Final Score: Baltimore 20, Cleveland 10
Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - Joe Flacco threw for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Baltimore Ravens clinched a playoff berth by defeating AFC North-rival Cleveland, 20-10.
Flacco completed 12-of-19 passes with an interception, while Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh both had a touchdown grab for Baltimore (11-4), which earned a postseason spot for the third straight season. The Ravens have won three straight and five of their last six overall.
"It was just a really gutsy, courageous performance," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said about the win. "Our defense really played well. The run defense was solid. I thought our corners covered very well."
Ray Rice finished with 92 yards rushing on 25 carries and Ed Reed had a pair of interceptions to lead the Baltimore defense.
Colt McCoy finished 15-of-29 passing for 149 yards with three picks for the Browns (5-10), who have dropped three in a row. Brian Robiskie accounted for Cleveland's only TD with a 29-yard grab early in the contest.
"Turnovers definitely hurt," Robiskie said. "Any time you play a team as good as that, a defense as good as that, you can't help them out. We did some good things at the start and did some good things throughout, but those turnovers really hurt."
Cleveland used some trickery to open the scoring with 7:01 left in the first quarter. Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace took the snap and flipped it to wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who rolled right and spotted Robiskie for the diving score. The play was challenged by Baltimore, but upheld.
Billy Cundiff capped a lengthy 16-play, 80-yard drive with a 27-yard field goal to get the Ravens on the board early in the second.
Massaquoi's fumble on Cleveland's ensuing possession led to another Baltimore score and a 10-7 lead.
Starting on the Browns' 20, two short runs by Rice moved the ball to the 15 before Flacco hit Houshmandzadeh with a strike in the middle of the end zone.
Cleveland picked up a pair of first downs on its next offensive try before Reed intercepted a McCoy pass at the Browns' 30 and returned it to midfield. The turnover led to Cundiff's 40-yarder with 4:06 to play before the half.
Phil Dawson's 30-yard field goal with three seconds left drew the Browns to within 13-10 at the break.
Cleveland went to its bag of tricks again with an onside kick attempt to start the second half, but the ball went out of bounds prior to going the necessary 10 yards and Baltimore took over at the Browns' 38.
After Flacco picked up a first down with a 13-yard scramble, the signal-caller hit Mason in the left corner of the end zone on the next play to put the visitors ahead 20-10 just 90 seconds into the third.
Baltimore maintained a 10-point edge heading into the fourth. After a lengthy time-consuming drive by the Ravens failed to result in points, Sam Koch's punt pinned the Browns back to their own six-yard line with 9:36 remaining.
Cleveland quickly moved down to the Baltimore 27 with an array of short passes by McCoy. However, the rookie quarterback missed his target on the next attempt and Reed picked it off in the end zone and brought it back to the 29 of the Ravens with under five minutes left.
Baltimore used a ball-control game behind Rice to run off all but a few seconds of the remaining time en rout to clinching its playoff berth.
Baltimore will host Cincinnati to close out the regular season next Sunday, while Cleveland hosts Pittsburgh...Baltimore has now won six straight against the Browns and improved to 17-7 in the all-time series...Reed now has 10 career interceptions against Cleveland, his most versus any opponent...Flacco improved to 6-0 against the Browns.
12/26 18:25:15 ET