As the Ravens lined up for a third-down play that could have sealed a victory over the Cleveland Browns, they did so without Marshal Yanda, their right guard and perhaps their most punishing run blocker.
On third-and-3 with 2:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, running back Ray Rice ran off left end and was gobbled up by a pair of Browns 2 yards short of the first-down marker.
The Ravens secured a win, 20-14, when Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor jumped offside before the ensuing play. They are one win away from their first AFC North title in the John Harbaugh era, but the 11-4 Ravens limped out of M&T Bank Stadium with several key injuries — ones that made holding off the Browns' second-half rally more challenging.
Yanda (rib bruise) and starting cornerback Cary Williams (concussion) were knocked out of the game in the second quarter. Starting inside linebacker Jameel McClain (shoulder stinger) was briefly sidelined before returning. Fellow linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (concussion) was lost in the second half. And wide receiver and returner David Reed is out for the rest of the season.
Reed, a second-year player, suffered a serious knee injury while making a cut during a 30-yard kickoff return on the opening play of the third quarter. It is believed to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Reed is expected to undergo an MRI on Sunday to confirm the initial diagnosis.
"It's frustrating, but God's got his plan for me, and I've just got to let him work his magic," said Reed, whose eyes were glued to the locker-room floor and whose trembling voice was barely audible.
Harbaugh said Ellerbe "looks pretty decent." The Ravens coach had not been updated on the status of Williams when he met with reporters after the game. And he said he will have to see how Yanda progresses in practice this week before determining his availability for next Sunday's regular-season finale against the 9-6 Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Yanda, who took a knee to the ribs while cut-blocking Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin on a screen play, was still in pain and having trouble breathing "after taking a couple of pain pills."
"It hurt like hell. I started to be able not to breathe," Yanda said after gingerly packing his bag at his locker. "I had to take deep breaths, and it really started to hurt me. They took some X-rays of it, and they couldn't really tell if it was a contusion or a fractured rib. We'll find out [Sunday]."
After rushing for 78 yards on 15 carries in the first half, the Ravens' running backs averaged just 3 yards per carry in the second half with Yanda on the sideline in street clothes.
"Marshal's a great player. Anytime you lose a guy like that, it's unfortunate, but next man up," center Matt Birk said. "Andre [Gurode] went in there and is physical, knew his assignments."
Injuries tested the depth of the defense, too.
Browns running back Peyton Hillis rushed for 112 yards on 24 carries against the Ravens, who were without a healthy McClain and Ellerbe at different times. Ray Lewis, who started his second game since missing four straight with a toe injury, and Brendon Ayanbadejo were left to chase down Hillis.
And with Williams out of the game — and fellow starter Lardarius Webb dealing with soreness in his injured toe — rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith and veteran Chris Carr got more snaps as the Ravens limited Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace to 147 passing yards on 33 attempts.
"I thought Jimmy did a great job stepping in for us," safety Bernard Pollard said. "He was a pro coming in, and Chris came in for our nickel package. So we've got to heal up a little bit. No major injuries, but we have to iron up this thing and we've got to get ready to play some football."
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