Ravens coach John Harbaugh praised the late-game adjustments on defense in Sunday's 23-21 win over Cleveland that kept the Browns off the scoreboard in the final quarter and gave the offense the chance to complete its comeback.
"That's what won the game, the resolve of our guys to finish the game — probably spearheaded by our defense in terms of the three-and-outs," Harbaugh said. "I think we had three out of four three-and-outs at the end, and two in a row in the fourth quarter."
The Browns, who averaged just over four yards a carry through the first three quarters, lost six yards on five carries in the fourth quarter. They finished with 91 yards on 29 carries for the game.
On their first drive of the fourth quarter, the Browns didn't record a first down and attempted an unsuccessful 50-yard field goal. Cleveland moved into the red zone on their next drive on a 70-yard pass play from Brian Hoyer to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, but stalled and had field goal blocked. The last two drives were also three-and-outs.
"I think we did a great job adjusting," Harbaugh said. "We called in a couple different defenses than we had been calling, and we got a different look over there to the tight end side than we had been getting. And our guys did a much better job of basically knocking their offensive line back into the backfield, and we controlled the edges better. It was defensive adjustments, and it was guys stepping up."
Harbaugh relishes RB battle
Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro's breakout game against Cleveland could make for a crowded backfield going forward, with Taliaferro, veteran Justin Forsett and third-year back Bernard Pierce vying for carries.
"You have to have depth at running back to compete in this league," Harbaugh said. "That's been proven — proven all across the league. Even when you think you have a premier guy, you still need running backs. I love competition. I love the fact that those guys are battling each other, as well as our opponents, for yards."
Taliaferro saw his first work of the season at running back with Pierce sidelined with a thigh issue, and scored twice while racking up 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Forsett had 11 carries for 63 yards Sunday, bringing his season total to 189 yards on 30 carries. Pierce had 28 carries for 113 yards in the first two games of the season.
Harbaugh said the plan is to have "three backs that can all play a role" going forward.
Manziel play illegal
Harbaugh, who said after Sunday's game that he thought the Browns' trick play to Johnny Manziel was illegal and admitted he must have been wrong, on Monday took delight in being right.
After taking his first snap at quarterback of the game, the Browns' rookie went to the sideline, but not off the field, and appeared as if he was talking with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. When the ball was snapped, Shanahan told Manziel to run, and he ran a go-route up the sidelines that went for
The play, however, was called back for an illegal shift by rookie Terrance West (Towson) in the backfield. Under an NFL rule that bans players from trying to line up so close to the sidelines in front of their bench, they should have been penalized 15 yards.
"I just know you can't be standing on the sidelines in a hide-out type of play within the bench area," Harbaugh said. "If it's down on like the 10-yard line where the bench isn't, then the defense can see you. But when he's hiding in the bench area, you don't know if he's on the field or not. It's a deception play."
The play was made illegal in 1954 after the Los Angeles Rams victimized the Baltimore Colts on a similar play in the Rams' 48-0, season-opening win over the Colts. The next day, then-NFL commissioner Bert Bell outlawed such sideline disguises.
Work on FG block pays off
Cornerback Asa Jackson's field goal block in the fourth quarter was the team's second in three games this season, and came after the team worked specifically on him and the outside rushers getting to the kicker.
"We've been trying to block field goals as long as they've been kicking field goals here, but we did something this week I thought that was helpful," Harbaugh said. "We just went to work on our edge rush a little bit."
The coach praised the inside rush on field goals, led by defensive end Chris Canty, but said associate head coach/special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg put in extra work on the outside.
"I thought Jerry did a good job with Asa, and Jeromy [Miles] and Brynden [Trawick] on the edge, rushing off the edge," Harbaugh said. "They got pressure off the edge all day, so for it to turn out to be a key block like that was really great."
Harbaugh sent his thoughts and prayers to the family of longtime Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas, who died following a car accident Sunday morning in Nashville, Tenn. He was 36. … Wide receiver Deonte Thompson, who was waived Saturday to make room on the 53-man roster for rookie running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, cleared waivers Monday. … Undrafted rookie defensive tackle A.J. Pataiali'i was re-signed to the practice squad. He was cut from the practice squad on Sept. 4, but went unsigned elsewhere. ... Inside linebacker Josh Bynes, who is on the Ravens' practice squad, will sign with Detroit Lions and join the active roster, according to a source.
Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.