Ravens outlast Browns
BALTIMORE — The regular NFL officials returned to work Thursday night, and the fans gave them a warm welcome back before bestowing their loudest cheers upon the Baltimore Ravens, who never trailed in a 23-16 victory over the winless Cleveland Browns.
Joe Flacco went 28 for 46 for 356 yards, threw one touchdown and ran for another. Cary Williams returned an interception 63 yards for a score near the end of the third quarter to give the Ravens (3-1) a 13-point lead.
And still, the game wasn't decided until a pass by Cleveland rookie Brandon Weeden sailed out of the end zone as time expired. The kept the Browns (0-4) the only winless team in the AFC.
Unlike the controversial ending of the Green Bay-Seattle game on Monday night, which heightened negotiations to get the regular refs back, this game ended without an argument.
As the officials walked onto the field hours before the game, the crew received a round of applause and shouts of encouragement from fans in the lower sections. Head linesman Wayne Mackie and line judge Jeff Seeman both tipped their caps to acknowledge the support.
And then, before the pregame coin flip, referee Gene Steratore, a Uniontown native, greeted the players at midfield by saying, “Good evening, men, it's good to be back.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Baltimore went up 6-0 on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Torrey Smith. The conversion failed.
On the Ravens' next drive, rookie Justin Tucker kicked a 45-yard field goal. Cleveland got back into the game with an 11-play, 94-yard march directed by Weeden, who connected with Greg Little for 43 yards before rookie Trent Richardson ran in from the 1.
The Browns were forced to play most of the game without wide receiver and punt returner Joshua Cribbs, who left with a head injury after absorbing a hard hit late in the first quarter.