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Baltimore Ravens

Ravens’ rally falls short in final seconds in 24-22 loss to Browns as QB Lamar Jackson exits with ankle injury

Cleveland — In a season haunted by injuries, the Ravens saw their worst nightmare come to life Sunday when quarterback Lamar Jackson limped off the field early in the second quarter of a 24-22 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

The defeat harmed the Ravens’ chances of winning the AFC North and claiming a playoff spot that seemed assured when they held the conference’s No. 1 seed just two weeks ago. But the sight of Jackson leaving the field on a cart eclipsed even the gloomy news on the scoreboard.

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Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah tackled the Ravens quarterback around the ankles after he had released a pass to tight end Mark Andrews in the second quarter. Jackson immediately reached for his right ankle as he hit the ground. After the game, coach John Harbaugh said he suffered an ankle sprain, adding “we’ll see how it responds tomorrow.”

The Ravens fell behind 24-3, and Jackson’s backup, Tyler Huntley, faced the tall task of leading another comeback in a season built on them. He nearly pulled it off, rallying the Ravens to within two points when he found Andrews for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 1:17 left. Safety Chuck Clark recovered the ensuing onside kick, Baltimore’s first successful attempt in 20 years, setting up Huntley for a potential game-winning drive. But on fourth-and-6 from the Ravens’ own 45-yard line, rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman fell 4 yards short of a first down to end their chances.

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Huntley finished 27-for-38 for 270 yards and a touchdown while running for 45 yards on six carries, another valiant performance to build on the victory he led while substituting for an ill Jackson against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 21. His rally, combined with a stout defensive effort in the second half, left the Ravens hopeful about their path forward despite their disappointment at a second straight AFC North loss.

“I just think it shows how resilient we are,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “We’ve shown that regardless of what’s put in front of us, whatever happens during the game, we know how to try to pull it together. We put ourselves in position to try to pull out one today, and we came up short.”

“I’m pissed we didn’t win the game,” center Bradley Bozeman said. “But we’re going to continue to fight. We’re going to continue to work. We’re going to continue to do the things we need to do to have ourselves in a better situation.”

The Ravens fell to 8-5 as their offense sputtered out of the gate for a fifth straight game and their tattered secondary failed to clamp down early on Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (22-for-32 for 190 yards, two touchdowns and one interception). They remain in the thick of a crowded AFC playoff race but face a daunting road ahead with home dates against the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams sandwiched around a Christmas weekend trip to Cincinnati for a rematch with the Bengals, who whupped them by 24 points in Baltimore on Oct. 24.

They came out of their latest loss frustrated with game officials who whistled them for 10 penalties and with their own sluggish start against a Browns team coming off their bye week.

Now, they’ll wait for more news on their franchise player.

The last time Jackson played in Cleveland, he cramped so badly that he vanished from the field for most of the fourth quarter, reappearing just in time to lead two scoring drives in a 47-42 victory.

There was no magic jog from the tunnel this time.

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“That’s our brother,” said Andrews, who finished the day with 11 catches on 11 targets for 115 yards and a touchdown and broke Todd Heap’s franchise record for the most single-season receiving yards by a tight end. “It’s something that … I remember Sammy [Watkins], right after it happened in the huddle, was like, ‘Let’s go play for Lamar.’ That’s our brother. I’ve been through a lot with him. And obviously, I’m just praying for him.”

For all that Jackson means to them, the Ravens have also learned to trust the backup quarterback they call “Snoop.” They had watched Huntley win his job over Trace McSorley in training camp and lead a comeback three weeks ago in Chicago. They believed he could do it again, even if no one in the stands at FirstEnergy Stadium saw the Ravens’ rally coming.

Browns defenders were impressed. “The way he looked, he might have been faster than Lamar,” defensive end Myles Garrett said.

Teammates said their faith in Huntley would extend to future weeks if Jackson is unable to go. “We already won without Lamar,” Bynes said. “We’re confident in ‘Snoop’ getting the job done because he’s already done it before for us this season. It’s also because he’s been doing it week in and week out during practice.”

The Ravens appeared headed for a humiliating afternoon as the Browns built a commanding early lead.

Cleveland scored first on a 43-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin, set up by a pair of pass-interference penalties on Ravens cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Chris Westry. They built their lead to 10-0 with an eight-play, 66-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by Mayfield’s 34-yard strike to wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones on third down.

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Mayfield continued his hot first half after Jackson left the field, finishing a 10-play, 77-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper to put the Browns up 17-0. The Ravens had stifled Mayfield two weeks earlier in a 16-10 win in Baltimore, but he completed 16 of 20 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the first half Sunday.

The Ravens, meanwhile, failed to score a first-quarter touchdown for the seventh straight game. Justin Tucker put them on the scoreboard with a 50-yard field goal late in the second quarter, set up by an interception from Averett. But their offense was anemic, accumulating 101 yards on 26 plays in the first half.

Garrett added insult to injury in the waning seconds of the half when he stripped Huntley and returned the fumble 15 yards for a touchdown that put Cleveland up 24-3.

The Ravens cut Cleveland’s lead to 24-9 on a 55-yard field goal by Tucker in the third quarter and moved to within 24-15 in the fourth quarter when Huntley found Bateman for 36 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Latavius Murray before a failed 2-point conversion attempt.

Their defense rediscovered its form from Week 12, shutting the Browns out in the second half and holding them to a pair of three-and-out drives in the fourth quarter.

“We just homed in on the basic fundamentals and let our guys still continue doing what they’re doing and not taking it away because of the penalties,” Bynes said.

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Bateman (seven catches, 103 yards) added to his breakout day with a leaping 30-yard catch on the Ravens’ final scoring drive. Huntley hit Andrews in the end zone on the next play, and the drama only ratcheted up when Tucker’s onside kick caromed off Browns fullback Andy Janovich and into the arms of Clark.

“I was real pumped up,” Clark said.

But Huntley took a sack that pushed the Ravens back to their 31-yard line and after a 14-yard completion to Andrews, he had to throw short to Bateman in the face of a fourth-down blitz. Browns cornerback Denzel Ward wrapped up the rookie receiver to end the comeback bid.

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With that, the Ravens were left to ponder another resilient performance that fell short.

“Tyler showed a lot of grit,” Harbaugh said. “It felt like the whole team did that. That’s who we are, and that’s why we have a chance to still win the championship — the AFC North — and hopefully go on from there.”

Week 15

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PACKERS@RAVENS

Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

TV: Chs. 45, 5 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Packers by 2


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