Cleveland--- Quarterback Jason Campbell tied a career high as he threw for three touchdowns, two to wide out Davone Bess, to lead the Browns to a 24-18 victory over the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens at First Energy Stadium on Sunday.
Campbell, making his second start at quarterback for the Browns, was 23 of 35 for 262 yards and posted a passer rating of 116.6. The victory ends a three game losing streak for the Browns, who had not won since October 3 against Buffalo. It also ends a much larger 11-game skid against Baltimore, dating back to 2007. Cleveland's win also gives the Ravens combination of head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco their first loss to the Browns and the duo's first loss following a bye week during the six-years they have spent together.
Though the Browns led for the entire game, it still took clutch plays very late in the game for them to finally put it on ice.
With the Browns up three with about three minutes left, head coach Rob Chudzinski stuck true to his beliefs and chose to be aggressive when many would have decided to go the other way.
After getting stuffed on a 3rd-and-1 play from the Ravens 43-yard line, Chudzinski chose to go for it on fourth down, letting his team control their destiny rather than allow the Ravens a chance to take the ball back and have time to tie the game on a field goal or take the lead with a touchdown. The Browns took a timeout to discuss their strategy before snapping the ball with 3:12 left and a crucial fourth down play about to take place.
Campbell took the snap and was immediately pushed out of the pocket by the blitzing Ravens defense. He remained calm and rolled to his right before releasing a pass that found a diving Bess in the middle of the field for a three-yard gain and a Cleveland first down.
The play allowed the Browns to move the ball into the field goal position while simultaneously milking all but 17 seconds off of the clocl before the Ravens got the ball back following a 22-yard Billy Cundiff field goal that made it 24-18.
Two plays later, all of the streaks were over, and the Browns found themselves at 4-5 and in second place in the AFC North, while the Ravens, with their third loss in a row, fall to 3-5 and sit in third place in the AFC's black and blue division.
If all the cards fall the right way, following their bye next week the Browns could now be in the thick of the AFC playoff race when they take the field two weeks from now to face the division leading Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cleveland started the scoring early in the first quarter when Campbell found Bess on a fourth-and-goal play from the one-yard line. Bess, who had an awful game last week in Kansas City with three drops and a muffed punt, redeemed himself early and often this week.
The Ravens would answer back minutes later when Justin Tucker drilled a 51-yard field goal to make it 7-3 Cleveland at the tail end of the first quarter.
Bess and Campbell would hook up again early in the second quarter when Campbell hit the slot receiver on a crossing pattern over the middle that Bess took 20-yards to the house while breaking the ankles of two Baltimore defenders. The highlight reel score made it 14-3 with 10:08 left in the half.
Neither team managed to do much of anything for the rest of the second quarter as both defenses turned up the pressure.
Cleveland's aggressive defense pressured Flacco all day long, keeping the Super Bowl MVP off balance and out of his rhythm while sacking him five times.
Baltimore's defense shut down the Browns already poor running game and keyed in on Campbell, managing to knock him out for a few plays with a rib injury, forcing former starter Brandon Weeden to control the offense for one possession. Weeden managed to stunt any momentum the team had built on offense before Campbell returned.
Flacco and the Ravens offense did manage to build some momentum before halftime as they scored on a 19-yard Flacco to rookie Marlon Brown pass play with nine seconds left in the half.
At that point it looked as if the Ravens had finally gotten traction and would continue to dominate the team they once were.
It continued to look that way after the half as the Ravens started with the ball and ran a 13-play drive that took over six minutes off of the clock, but a big third down sack by TJ Ward ended the drive and knocked the Ravens out of field goal range, forcing them to punt the ball back to the Browns trailing 14-10.
The Browns took over and failed to do anything before being forced to punt. However, Ravens returnman Tandon Doss muffed the punt and Browns special teamer Eric Martin was their to scoop it up to give his team possession at the Baltimore 11-yard line.
A few plays later Campbell found back up tight end Gary Barnidge for a four-yard score that put the Browns up 21-10.
The Ravens would score again early in the fourth quarter when Flacco found Brown again for a seven yard score. The two also hooked up on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt to make it 21-18.
But the new Browns brand of aggressive football on both sides of the ball managed to keep the Ravens at bay for the rest of the game and send the home fans away with a happy victory over their hated rival.
Greg Little led the Browns in receiving with seven catches for 122 yards in what was his best game as a Brown. Little did still have his usual boneheaded moments as the hothead from North Carolina picked up two personal fouls.
The Ravens were led by Brown who had five catches, two for scores, and Flacco who overcame a weak start to go 24 of 42 for 250 yards and two scores.