BALTIMORE — For much of the first three weeks, opposing quarterbacks had looked for Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams. They watched where he lined up and often threw in that direction.
But with the Ravens holding a precarious six-point lead late in the third quarter Thursday night, Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden lost sight of Williams and the result was the game’s decisive play.
Williams stepped in front of wide receiver Travis Benjamin in the flat and took the ball 65 yards for a touchdown — and his first career interception — to help the Ravens turn aside the pesky Browns, 23-16, before an announced 70,944 at M&T Bank Stadium in a game played in a steady rain.
The interception gave the Ravens a 23-10 lead. The lead was whittled to seven on two 50-plus yard field goals by veteran Phil Dawson.
Weeden, who threw for 320 yards, got the ball back at his own 10 with just over a minute to go and got all the way to the Ravens 18-yard line after a personal foul on Baltimore’s Paul Kruger prolonged the final drive; Weeden had thrown an apparent incomplete pass on fourth down in the final seconds before the penalty gave the Browns one last chance.
Weeden’s final pass sailed out of the end zone as time expired.
Even with the presence of the regular referees who made their debut tonight after settling their differences with the league late Wednesday night, it wasn’t a pretty game by any means.
The Ravens had 11 penalties for 100 yards, committed a turnover in the red zone and rookie place kicker Justin Tucker missed his first field goal.
However, the Ravens will head into a weekend off with a satisfying 3-1 record, two close victories in a five-day span, a nine-game winning streak against the Browns (0-4) and their home (13) and divisional (10) winning streaks still intact.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was 28-for-46 for 356 yards with one touchdown to Torrey Smith, one rushing touchdown and one interception. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin caught nine passes for 139 yards; all but one of the catches came in the second half.
Holding an uncomfortable two-point lead at halftime, the Ravens came out on their first drive of the second half and went 89 yards on 13 plays. The drive mostly belonged to Flacco and Boldin. The veteran wide receiver had an 18-yard reception on 2nd-and-5 and then a 21-yard catch on 3rd-and-7.
A 21-yard reception by Boldin set up the Ravens in a 1st-and -goal situation from the 2. On third down, Flacco rolled out, juked a defender and went in the end zone untouched for a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Ravens a 16-7 lead with 9 minutes 53 seconds to play.
The Browns answered with a 51-yard field goal by Dawson to make it a six-point game. It stayed that way as Tucker was wide right from 47 yards.
However, Williams stepped in front of a Weeden pass on the next Browns’ drive to give the Ravens a 13-point lead.
— Baltimore Sun