The Cleveland Browns weren’t bad in their season opener. But, as has been the case so often over the past few seasons, they weren’t quite good enough.
“It’s heartbreaking,” safety Earl Little said of last Sunday’s 9-6 loss to Indianapolis, “but we have 15 games left.”
The Browns look to rebound from the disappointing defeat as they face the Baltimore Ravens in a matchup between AFC North rivals at M&T Bank Stadium.
On Sunday, the Browns lost on a last-second field goal by Mike Vanderjagt.
“It’s rough,” Little said. “You play your hearts out, and it comes down to another doggone field goal. I kind of expect it now.”
In their three seasons under coach Butch Davis, the Browns have played 20 games that came down to the final minute—13 of which have been decided on the last play.
“See all these gray hairs,” Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson said, rubbing his goatee. “It seems like every week it’s going to be close, but that’s the league.”
Sunday’s loss was especially frustrating for Cleveland, which has changed its lineup dramatically since a heartbreaking 36-33 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the playoffs in January.
The defense, which included three second-year linebackers making their first pro starts, held the Colts without a touchdown and intercepted two Peyton Manning passes.
“This year, we virtually pitched a shutout against Indianapolis,” said Davis, whose defense ranked 23rd in the league last season. “I don’t know how many plays they had in the red zone, but they didn’t score a touchdown.”
However, he was intercepted twice in the first half and couldn’t lead Cleveland into the end zone despite having first-and-goal at the Colts’ 3-yard line twice.
“You’ve got to come away with a touchdown in at least one if not both of the possessions,” said Davis, who admitted after reviewing game film that he should have had Holcomb try a sneak.
“Having to settle for two field goals was a bitter pill.”
The Ravens are coming off a disheartening 34-15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their season opener.
Rookie quarterback Kyle Boller threw for just 152 yards on 22-of-42 passing and was intercepted on Baltimore’s first drive.
Coach Brian Billick said he was disappointed running back Jamal Lewis didn’t get the ball more often. Lewis averaged 4.6 yards on his 15 carries—about 10 fewer than Billick would have prefered.
“Any game we have Jamal carry the ball only 15 times is a game we will probably lose,” he said. “That’s something we can’t let happen again. Jamal has got to get his hands on the ball.”
The Baltimore defense gave up 339 yards, including 241 through the air, and four touchdowns.
“If Pittsburgh beat us, I can take it, but to play like this …,” said Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury.
The Ravens are looking forward to their matchup with the Browns.
“The great thing about this game is that they’re in our division and they lost their first game,” safety Gary Baxter said. “We need to come out victorious, because there is going to be a lot riding on it for both teams.
“I think that’s good, because now we have to step up and meet the challenge.”
STANDINGS: Browns - 2nd place (tied), AFC North. Ravens - 2nd place (tied), AFC North.
BROWNS LEADERS: Offense - Holcomb, 182 passing yards; William Green, 86 rushing yards; Dennis Northcutt, 5 receptions and 57 receiving yards. Defense - Andra Davis and Daylon McCutcheon, 8 tackles; Courtney Brown, 1 sack; Kevin Bentley and Ben Taylor, 1 interception.
RAVENS LEADERS: Offense - Boller, 152 passing yards and 1 passing TD; Lewis, 69 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD; Todd Heap, 6 receptions and 55 receiving yards; Travis Taylor, 1 receiving TD. Defense - Ed Reed, 7 tackles; Peter Boulware, Terrell Suggs and Adalius Thomas, 1 sack.
BROWNS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 98 yards per game (T-15th in NFL); Passing Offense - 182 ypg (22nd); Total Offense - 280 ypg (T-21st). Rushing Defense - 67 ypg (9th); Passing Defense - 204 ypg (15th); Total Defense - 271 ypg (10th).
RAVENS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 88 ypg (20th); Passing Offense - 143 ypg (25th); Total Offense - 231 ypg (30th). Rushing Defense - 98 ypg (T-16th); Passing Defense - 241 ypg (21st); Total Defense - 339 ypg (25th).
LAST MEETING: Dec. 22, 2002; Browns, 14-13. At Baltimore, Mark Campbell caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Couch with 29 seconds left to give Cleveland the come-from-behind win. Couch threw for 209 yards on 22-of-31 passing. Lewis ran for 100 yards on 21 carries for the Ravens.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Browns - The Browns were involved in 12 games decided by eight points or fewer last season. … Since 1950, the Browns are 17-7 (.708) following a season-opening loss. … The Browns have won three of their last four matchups with the Ravens, including the last two in Baltimore. Ravens - WR Frank Sanders is just seven receptions shy of 500. … RB Lewis has more carries (90) for more yards (543 yards) against the Browns than any other team in the league. … Dating to last season, Baltimore has given up at least 30 points in three of its last five games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Browns - 0-0 on the road; Ravens - 0-0 at home.
INJURIES: Browns - PROBABLE: DE Brown (foot); WR Quincy Morgan (hip). Ravens - OUT: RB Musa Smith (knee). QUESTIONABLE: CB Corey Fuller (thigh); CB Alvin Porter (groin); WR Sanders (foot). PROBABLE: G Casey Rabach (knee); P Dave Zastudil (thigh).