BALTIMORE (AP) — After the Baltimore Ravens completed their first unbeaten season at home, all that’s left to accomplish during the regular season is securing at least one playoff game on their own turf.
Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes, and the Ravens beat the bumbling Cleveland Browns 20-14 on Saturday to move one step closer to winning the AFC North.
Ray Rice ran for 87 yards and caught a TD pass for the Ravens (11-4), who led 17-0 at halftime and held on to wrap up an 8-0 season at home.
Baltimore would win AFC North by defeating Cincinnati on the road next week. That would also give the Ravens a first-round bye and a home playoff game — two if New England loses next Sunday at home against Buffalo.
Flacco went 11 for 24 with touchdown passes to Rice and tight end Ed Dickson. He also had a 33-yard run.
Josh Cribbs had a career-high 84-yard punt return for a TD for Cleveland (4-11). But the Browns generated very little offense and were guilty of questionable play calling, bad clock management and untimely penalties in their fifth straight loss.
Cleveland saved the worst for last. With no timeouts left, the Browns lined up on defense after the two-minute warning with the Ravens facing a fourth-and-2 at the Cleveland 37.
It appeared obvious that Flacco and the Ravens were merely hoping to draw the Browns offside. As the play clock moved close to zero, Cleveland tackle Phil Taylor jumped across the line of scrimmage to give Baltimore a first down.
The Ravens then ran out the clock on their eighth straight win over the Browns, including two this month.
Seneca Wallace went 19 for 33 for 147 yards in place of Colt McCoy, who was out with a concussion. Peyton Hillis ran for 112 yards, but Cleveland’s offense mounted only one decent drive.
The Browns took the opening kickoff and moved from their own 26 to the Baltimore 30 behind the power of Hillis, who gained 30 yards on six carries. But on a third-and-1, Cleveland inexplicably went to the air, and Lardarius Webb intercepted Wallace’s pass for Mohamed Massaquoi.
Flacco immediately threw deep for Torrey Smith, who drew a 60-yard penalty for pass interference on Mike Adams to set up a pass to Dickson.
Cleveland then punted, and a 29-yard throw from Flacco to Smith led to a 48-yard field goal by newcomer Shayne Graham, signed in the middle of the week to take over for the injured Billy Cundiff.
After another Cleveland punt, Flacco directed an 82-yard drive that gave Baltimore a 17-0 lead. Rice slipped behind linebacker D’Qwell Jackson on the right sideline, caught a soft pass in stride and sprinted into the end zone to complete a 42-yard scoring play. That made Flacco 5 for 5 for 94 yards and two touchdowns on third down.
Cleveland moved deep into Baltimore territory late in the first half, thanks in part to a 30-yard pass interference call against Chris Carr. But with the clock inside 10 seconds and the Browns without a timeout left, Hillis ran the ball and was stopped at the 3.
Time expired before Cleveland could get off another play, and the Browns headed to the locker room after being held scoreless in the first half for the second time this season. The other time it happened was earlier this month — against Baltimore.
Graham kicked a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter to make it 20-0.
The Browns finally scored when Cribbs took a punt on the right sideline, escaped an arm tackle and broke toward the center of the field before outrunning three defenders into the left corner of the end zone late in the third quarter. Cribbs also contributed to Cleveland’s next touchdown, catching a 23-yard pass from Wallace as part of an 80-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard TD throw to Evan Moore with 8:22 remaining.
The Browns forced a punt, but Wallace used their last timeout on a fourth-and-4 from the Cleveland 45 with 4:03 left. A pass to Hillis came up short, and Baltimore took over. Taylor’s jump across the line of scrimmage soon followed.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)