Things went from bad to worse for the visitors about midway through the third quarter when Doss muffed a punt, giving the Browns the ball at the 11-yard line. Two plays later, Campbell hit reserve tight end Gary Barnidge for a 4-yard touchdown and a 21-10 Cleveland lead. The score went uncontested as there was a communication error on the play and nobody picked up Barnidge, one of several missed assignments that victimized the Ravens’ secondary.
Doss, however, took the blame for the entire sequence.
“Dropping that ball changed the game,” he said. “You can’t let that happen.”
With all that and nine penalties for 80 yards, the Ravens still pulled within a field goal early in the fourth quarter. Flacco found Brown for a 7-yard touchdown, and then hit him on the two-point conversion to cut the Browns’ lead to 21-18 with 12:09 to play.
The Ravens got the ball back and converted on a fourth-and-1 to get near midfield, before Flacco was sacked on third down, forcing another punt. There was still 6:44 to play and the Ravens trailed only by a field goal, but Sam Koch’s 25-yard punt was the first of several plays that sealed the Ravens’ fate.
Campbell scrambled for 12 yards on third-and-3. Then, on fourth-and-1 from the Ravens’ 43, Campbell hit Bess for 3 yards. Two first-down completions to Chris Ogbonnaya then set up Cundiff’s chip-shot field goal, which finalized a 15-play and 67-yard drive that ate up six minutes, 30 seconds.
It marked the third straight game where the Ravens’ defense was unable to get off the field late in the fourth quarter.
“We just have to find a way to get off the field,” Canty said. “Championship defenses are able to do that. We weren’t able to do that today.”
Rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, who declared that the Ravens were in a state of emergency when the Ravens lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago, declined to speak to reporters after Sunday’s loss. Rice was not in the locker room when reporters were allowed to enter. Defensive end Arthur Jones bid good riddance to Ravens’ fans who have lost hope, saying, “I appreciate the fans that stick with us and the ones that don’t, they can go kick rocks.”
Harbaugh, meanwhile, didn’t hide from the challenge that now faces his team. His team has made the playoffs in five straight seasons, but as Haden said earlier in the week and as the Ravens continue to prove every Sunday, this is a different Ravens’ team.
“We’re 3-5,” Harbaugh said. “The math says it’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to win some games. We’re going to have to start winning close games. That’s the No. 1 thing we’ve got to get done and you do that first of all by not losing the game. You can’t make the mistakes that create opportunities for your opponent and we’ve done way too much of that.”