When you pick off the opposing quarterback four times, you need to win. The Cleveland Browns couldn't do it.
Lamar Jackson made several mistakes on Sunday night in a weird game, and the Browns simply weren't good enough to take advantage.
The Ravens won't feel great about how they played on Sunday night, but they'll be elated for a huge AFC North win. Baltimore beat Cleveland 16-10, improving to 8-3. The Browns are 6-6 and have a huge hole to dig out of if they want to win the division. The 7-4 Cincinnati Bengals are the Ravens' biggest threat to take the AFC North.
Jackson threw four interceptions, but the Browns made their share of mistakes too. The difference was they don't have a Jackson that can also make big plays to turn a game.
Plenty of mistakes for Browns and Ravens
There were plenty of bizarre moments to go around on Sunday night.
There was an odd sequence with multiple Ravens fourth-down plays whistled dead because of substitution issues, and then the Browns ended up with 12 men on the field and gave Baltimore a first down. There was a stretch in which the teams had five turnovers in six possessions. One of the turnovers came on a trick play with Browns receiver Jarvis Landry passing and he was hit from behind. Another happened when Baker Mayfield was winding up to pass and had the ball fall out of his hands for a fumble.
The other three turnovers were Jackson's interceptions. He threw picks on three straight possessions. He looked flustered and frustrated. Yet, it's still Jackson. Between the turnovers, he made plays that most other quarterbacks can't. He scrambled around on the game's first touchdown, dodging defenders until finally finding Mark Andrews in the end zone. All night he frustrated Browns defenders with his elusiveness.
The Ravens overcame Jackson's mistakes. Or, perhaps more accurately, the Browns just gave away a winnable game because they weren't good enough.
Browns offense sputters
Mayfield wasn't very good on Sunday night. He threw a touchdown to David Njoku — the ball might have touched the ground or Njoku's leg, and you can watch the replay a thousand times and not know for sure — but did little else. Both offenses were bad. The Browns offense was just a little worse.
The Browns came into the season with high hopes. They leave Baltimore with a 6-6 record in a crowded AFC wild-card race. A lot of the blame falls on Mayfield, who is playing through multiple injuries and is not his peak self, but that isn't the only answer. Cleveland hasn't recaptured what it had last season, when it won a playoff game and gave the Kansas City Chiefs a scare in the divisional round.
The Browns had their chances. In the final minutes, they could have gotten the ball back with a stop, but the Ravens kept grinding out first downs and running down the clock. Justin Tucker hit a field goal with 1:10 left to give the Ravens a 16-10 lead.
Mayfield had a chance to drive the Browns down for a game-winning touchdown. The possession started with three incompletions and ended when Njoku was tackled well short of the sticks on fourth down.
The Ravens didn't play great, but they made plays when they had to. That's more than the Browns could say.