BALTIMORE - By the time Cleveland Browns receiver Travis Benjamin cut his route toward the sideline, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams had already begun his break for the ball.
Recognizing the situation - a third-and-4 - Williams anticipated Benjamin's short out route, hopped in front and intercepted Brandon Weeden's attempted pass for Benjamin before racing down the sideline for what proved to be a critical 63-yard touchdown return amid the Ravens' 23-16 Thursday night.
The interception came at a key moment for Baltimore, providing cushion after Cleveland had trimmed its deficit to 16-10 late in the third quarter.
Just days earlier, Williams was the subject of substantial criticism after struggling during Sunday's win against the New England Patriots.
Thursday, however, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh referred to Williams as "the difference in the game."
"Here is a guy who was under a lot of heat from [the media]," Harbaugh said. "But he wasn't under heat in our building because we know what kind of player he is, and he came up big."
Fellow Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb described Williams' interception as "a huge moment."
"They kept messing with him," Webb said of the Browns' offense. "But we knew that he would eventually come through. I've been working with him every day since training camp, and I know what he's got. He started off a little slow, but you see the big play potential in him. He makes plays and that's why we believe him."
The Browns battled back, though.
Two fourth quarter Phil Dawson field goals cut the Ravens' advantage to 23-16. And after Cleveland's defense forced a Baltimore punt with just more than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, Weeden led the Browns into position for a game-tying score.
But after guiding Cleveland's offense to the Ravens' 18-yard line in the waning moments of the quarter, Weeden's attempt at a game-tying touchdown pass sailed out of the end zone as time expired amid pressure from the Baltimore's defensive line.
The Ravens had stopped the Browns on fourth down a play earlier, but a personal foul on Baltimore outside linebacker Paul Kruger gave Cleveland one more shot at the end zone.
"Once we got through it, it was like, 'Oh, finally,'" Webb said. "But it's nice to have the game on our [defense's] back. We really stepped up when we had to. We did a great job getting them off the field. We had a crazy call at the end. But still, that adversity we faced it and we won the game."
Weeden threw for 320 yards, but completed just 25 of his 52 pass attempts and was without a touchdown.
With the Ravens employing a variety of blitz packages aimed to confuse the rookie quarterback, Weeden was under constant pressure.
Baltimore had just one sack, but recorded eight quarterback hits.
Kruger had the Ravens' lone sack, but middle linebackers Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain also generated pressure as pass rushers, as did defensive linemen Pernell McPhee and Haloti Ngata.
Five of Cleveland's six second half possessions extended into Baltimore territory, but the five drives produced a total of just nine points.
The Browns were 3-of-15 on third down.
Cleveland rookie running back Trent Richardson was limited to 47 yards on 14 carries, but added 57 yards on four catches and had a 1-yard scoring run late in the second quarter that sent the Browns into halftime trailing just 9-7.
"It's just one or two plays, that's the difference," Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas said.
Baltimore outgained Cleveland 438-357.
Despite constant pressure from an aggressive Browns defense, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco finished 28-of-46 for 356 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Flacco was sacked a season-high four times, and hit several more, but delivered several big throws down the field.
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin led Baltimore with nine catches for 131 yards.
He had three grabs for 60 yards during the Ravens' first drive of the third quarter, helping set up a 1-yard Flacco scoring run that pushed Baltimore's lead to 16-7.
He also had a key 28-yard catch late in the fourth quarter, making an acrobatic grab over Cleveland cornerback Dimitri Patterson, with the Ravens leading by seven and just less than four minutes remaining.
"Anquan Boldin had some huge catches for us, especially that conversion down there on the sideline," Harbaugh said.
Torrey Smith had 97 yards on six catches for Baltimore, including an 18-yard touchdown that opened the scoring early in the second quarter.
Ravens running back Ray Rice was held in check on the ground, limited to 49 yards on 18 carries, but was effective as a receiver out of the backfield. He had eight catches for 47 yards.
Thursday's game marked Baltimore's fourth in an 18-day span to start the season, but the team will now have some time for recovery prior to traveling to face the Kansas City Chiefs Oct. 7.
"I'm tired, man," Rice joked. "I can't wait to have this weekend off."