Ravens 16, Browns 3
-- The Baltimore Ravens returned to the football field on Sunday afternoon, which meant they could stop talking about how they were going to make amends for their embarrassing, self-destructive performance against Detroit a week earlier and finally start acting.
In a 16-3 victory over the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore's defense -- which took the brunt of the criticism following the Detroit loss -- was dominant, the offense was efficient, and the special teams provided a needed boost in front of 70,196 at M&T Bank Stadium. And the Ravens showed they can behave.
"There was a lot of pressure on us to come out and perform like we can and act civilized on the field," said cornerback Samari Rolle, who was part of a defense that forced three turnovers and recorded four sacks. "Now we just have to repeat like we did today and keep playing."
The Ravens, who were off to their worst start in franchise history, are 2-3 and travel to Chicago next week.
Baltimore's players and coaches said throughout the past week that the meltdown in Detroit -- which included 21 penalties (one short of the NFL record), two ejections and four players fined a total of $40,000 by the league -- was an aberration. But it was not an easy week, with national attention focused on whether the Ravens had a discipline problem and whether Coach Brian Billick had lost control of the team.
"I'm excited, excited about the way this team responded and proud of the way they handled the pressure all week long, the attitude they brought into the stadium," said Billick, who left the postgame podium without taking any questions from reporters. "They responded just the way you wanted them to."
The Ravens sent a message before kickoff by sending wide receiver Derrick Mason, safety Ed Reed and defensive end Terrell Suggs -- who were fined a combined $35,000 by the NFL for their actions in the 35-17 loss at Detroit -- out as the game captains.
"We wanted to let you all know that we are a team of tremendous character," said Suggs, who was ejected against the Lions for making physical contact with an official. "Last week was just a minor setback. We are all good guys. I think that's definitely what we were trying to show today by our play."
Against the Browns (2-3), Baltimore was penalized 11 times for 97 yards, including a holding call that negated a 15-yard touchdown run by rookie wide receiver Mark Clayton. Only one of those flags was for a personal foul; linebacker Ray Lewis was called for unnecessary roughness in the third quarter for hitting Antonio Bryant when the wide receiver was out of bounds.
The Ravens' reaction to that penalty was more revealing than the infraction itself; they weren't happy with the call, but they did not lose their cool. On the next play, Suggs pressured quarterback Trent Dilfer and knocked his arm as he tried to throw the ball, and Lewis corralled the errant pass for his first interception of the season and the 21st of his career, which ties him with Reed for the franchise record.
"It just goes to show you learn from your mistakes," said Suggs, who also had one sack and forced a fumble. "We just calmed down and boom, got the turnover."
Baltimore used a Cleveland turnover to take an early 7-0 lead. On the Browns' first play from scrimmage, Dilfer -- who received a nice ovation from the crowd that remembered how he led the Ravens to a win in Super Bowl XXXV win before being unceremoniously dumped by the team -- fumbled a shotgun snap. Lewis fell on the ball, giving Baltimore possession on the Cleveland 20-yard line. Five plays later, quarterback Anthony Wright connected with tight end Todd Heap on a three-yard touchdown pass. It marked the first time this season Baltimore scored in the first quarter and the first time it had turned a turnover into a touchdown.
"It's crucial," said Mason, who had eight catches for 85 yards. "Usually it takes us two, three, four series before we even get to the other team's side of the field. But today we were able to do that with the help of the defense. Once we got that rhythm going, it was hard for them to take us out of it."
The Ravens' offense held the ball for 21 minutes in the first half and scored on four of its six possessions, building a 16-0 halftime lead. Baltimore took advantage of good field position: a 51-yard punt return by B.J. Sams helped set up a 39-yard field goal from Matt Stover, and a fumble recovery by linebacker Adalius Thomas at the Cleveland 36 led to a 38-yard Stover kick. The Ravens had one scoring drive that began in their territory, and that one featured a 52-yard run from Chester Taylor and ended with a 27-yard Stover field goal.
Wright, again starting in place of the injured Kyle Boller (toe), was efficient, completing 23 of 31 passes for 213 yards, but he did throw his seventh interception of the season. Taylor and Jamal Lewis combined for 151 rushing yards on 32 carries. Baltimore's defense held the Browns to 186 yards of total offense.
"That's the thing," guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "We've been talking a lot about what we were going to do. We've been talking about hey, we're going to stay focused and stay even-keeled, and to prove it today, that's what we wanted to do, just back up our talk. [Show] that we can play a focused game without losing the passion and intensity, and that's what happened."
Ravens Notes: Reed, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, left the game in the third quarter with a right ankle and knee sprain. X-rays on the ankle were negative. Clayton and fullback Ovie Mughelli also left the game with ankle sprains. Mughelli's injury is considered to be the most serious; he is the only one who will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday. . . .
Umpire Butch Hannah was injured in the fourth quarter when Taylor ran into him. Hannah suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament and will be out three to four weeks.