CLEVELAND − It was certainly an AFC North kind of night in Deshaun Watson’s first home start as the Browns quarterback on Saturday. However, it was not, as Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey said earlier in the week, a “not-so-soft” welcome for him.
The Browns and Ravens played a defensive struggle as the snow fell over FirstEnergy Stadium. It was one in which the Browns’ defense was able to get the best of the Ravens offense in a 13-3 win.
Watson was 18-of-28 for 161 yards and a touchdown and had 22 yards on six carries in his first home game for the Browns. It was his third start, with Cleveland improving to 2-1 with him behind center and 6-8 overall.
However, the story of the game was the defense. Despite the Ravens amassing 324 yards for the game with backup quarterback Tyler Huntley starting in place of an injured Lamar Jackson, they could manage just one Justin Tucker field goal.
The Browns forced two turnovers and blocked a Tucker field goal. They also stopped Baltimore, which falls to 9-5, on three fourth-down tries.
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Defense bows up to stop Ravens on fourth-and-1 in red zone
A pass interference flag jump-started the Ravens on an impressive opening-drive march. Baltimore mixed a healthy dose of both J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards to move from their own 35 after the penalty to the Browns 7, where they had fourth-and-1.
The Ravens went with a quick handoff to fullback Patrick Ricard on the play. Linebacker Deion Jones and safety John Johnson III were the first two to meet Ricard in the hole, preventing him from gaining anything and giving the Browns a huge early defensive stand.
Deshaun Watson finds a rhythm with short-to-intermediate passes
After a first-possession three-and-out, Watson found a nice passing rhythm on the Browns’ second possession. Instead of forcing things downfield, it was a steady diet of short to intermediate passes that allowed him to get comfortable for the drive.
Watson was 6-of-7 on the drive for 51 yards. He completed a pair of passes each to Donovan Peoples-Jones (22 yards) and David Njoku (15 yards), while Amari Cooper also brought in a 4-yard catch on third-and-2 from the Ravens 48.
The drive, though, was stalled when no one picked up Baltimore safety Kyle Hamilton coming off the left side of the Browns’ line on first down from the Ravens 32. The 7-yard loss on the sack set the drive back, and Cade York needed to hit a 47-yarder to give the Browns a 3-0 lead 50 seconds into the second quarter.
Justin Tucker’s leg giveth for the Ravens
Much like the Browns, the Ravens were on-again, off-again with putting drives together. After their second possession stalled out at their 46, their third possession managed to cross into Cleveland territory.
However, after reaching the Browns 33, Tyler Huntley fumbled the snap on third down, leaving Baltimore to have to turn to Justin Tucker’s big leg. Tucker connected on a 53-yard field goal − his 55th career field goal of 50 yards or more − to tie the game at 3-3 with 5:31 remaining in the half.
It was Tuckers’ fifth field goal of at least 50 yards at FirstEnergy Stadium in 10 career games. Only the Browns’ Phil Dawson, with seven, has kicked more.
Daylen Baldwin’s big catches sets Browns up for another field goal
Watson’s fourth drive went much like his second one. He found a rhythm to set up a York field goal, this one a 23-yarder to give the Browns a 6-3 lead with 1:52 remaining in the first half.
The quarterback was 4-of-6 on the drive for 44 yards. Two of his biggest throws, though, were back-to-back passes to rookie Daylen Baldwin, who was elevated to the gameday roster from the practice squad on Friday.
Baldwin caught a 10-yard pass on second-and-4 from the Ravens 42. He followed that up with a 15-yard catch to the Baltimore 17.
The drive stalled out with two incompletions to Njoku sandwiched around a no-gain by Nick Chubb from the Ravens 4.
Justin Tucker’s leg giveth to the Browns at the half
The Ravens had their own answer right before the half. Thanks to two big third-down conversions, including a 19-yard completion to Andrews, Baltimore had the ball at the Browns 31 with two seconds left on the half.
That brought Tucker on for a 48-yard field goal. Chip shot, right?
With Denzel Ward crashing in off the right side of the Ravens’ line, Tucker pushed the kick to the left. The miss, his first inside of 50 yards this season, allowed the Browns to take a 6-3 halftime lead.
Browns defense draws big offsetting penalty to set up Denzel Ward interception
The Browns were hurt by ill-timed defensive penalties in their loss on Sunday in Cincinnati. That included one play where they would’ve had a sack of Joe Burrow if not for a defensive holding call that offset a Bengals hold.
On Baltimore’s opening drive of the second half, the Ravens had third-and-10 from the Browns 15. Huntley threw incomplete on the play, on which both teams were flagged, the Ravens for a hold and the Browns for being offsides.
That meant, instead of giving Tucker a short field goal try on fourth down, Baltimore had to retry third down. On the re-tried third down, Ward stepped in front of a pass intended for DeSean Jackson and intercepted it at the Browns 9.
Ravens give Browns a chance to kick-start touchdown drive
The Browns looked like they would do nothing with the Ward interception. Watson was forced out of the pocket on third-and-7 from the Cleveland 12, and was headed toward not getting close to the first down.
However, Baltimore’s Justin Houston grabbed Watson’s facemask as he ran by him. The 15-yard penalty was the ignition the Browns needed to get their offense going on the drive.
From there, the Browns went from their own 27 into the end zone for a 13-3 lead. They marched that distance in 10 plays, with Watson hitting Peoples-Jones for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 2:10 remaining in the third.
Watson was 5-of-7 after the penalty for 56 yards and his second touchdown pass with the Browns. He had two huge passes to Cooper on consecutive plays that netted 44 yards and put the ball on the Ravens 18.
Browns defense comes up big as game gets late
The Browns defense helped to keep the lead at 10 thanks to consecutive series where it made big plays. The first came in the form of a turnover, the second with a blocked kick.
On the first, it was Johnson who managed to both strip Demarcus Robinson after a 10-yard catch and recover the ball at the Baltimore 40 with 2:08 left in the third. On the second, it was Jordan Elliott getting his right forearm on a 50-yard Tucker field goal try with 14:02 remaining.
Those two stops were followed up by a fourth-down stop at the Ravens 46 with 9:30 remaining in the game. They added a final fourth-down stop at the Baltimore 33 with 3:06 left.
Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @ceasterlingABJ