Ravens clinch playoff berth with 20-10 win over Browns

Posted Dec. 26, 2010 @ 4:17 p.m.
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By Tom Withers, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) — Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens backed up their brash talk, and walked into the AFC playoffs.

Don't they always?

Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes, Lewis and the rest of Baltimore's tenacious defense bottled up Cleveland's Peyton Hillis, and the Ravens clinched their third straight playoff appearance, beating the fading Browns 20-10 on Sunday.

Ed Reed intercepted Cleveland rookie quarterback Colt McCoy twice as the Ravens (11-4) stayed in contention for the AFC North title. They remain tied with Pittsburgh for the division lead with one game left. Next week, Baltimore hosts Cincinnati while the Steelers visit Cleveland.

Lewis promised Hillis would not repeat his 144-yard performance against Baltimore in Week 3, and the big, bruising back didn't come close, rushing for 35 yards on 12 carries.

McCoy threw three interceptions and the Browns (5-10) did nothing to help embattled coach Eric Mangini, who fell to 10-21 in two seasons and awaits a postseason review by president Mike Holmgren.

Flacco threw a 15-yard TD to T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the second quarter and a 22-yarder to Derrick Mason in third as the Ravens built a 20-10 lead and turned things over to their stingy defense.

Lewis, the Ravens' undisputed leader, pledged Hillis would have a long day. Asked about the back's success against Baltimore on Sept. 26, Lewis scoffed, ''A blind cat will find a meal every once in a while. When we get back to Cleveland, it'll definitely be a different outcome. It won't happen again.''

The Browns were aware of Lewis' comments and didn't like them.

Fullback Lawrence Vickers exchanged words with Lewis during warmups and unassuming Browns guard Eric Steinbach mocked the flamboyant linebacker's pregame dance routine when he emerged from Cleveland's tunnel for introductions.

Lewis and his teammates, though, never let Hillis or the Browns get going.

Reed rammed his helmet into Hillis' ribs on his second carry and he wasn't the same the rest of the day.

Billy Cundiff kicked field goals of 27 and 40 yards as Baltimore won its sixth straight over Cleveland.

Time could be running out for Mangini, whose questionable clock management at the end of the first half had Browns fans befuddled.

Phil Dawson's 30-yard field goal with 3 seconds left before half brought Cleveland within 13-10, but the Browns wasted a ton of time between plays on the drive. Mangini went to the locker room still possessing two timeouts.

Cleveland fans weren't even back in their seats when Mangini had them scratching their heads again.

The Browns tried an onside kick to start the third quarter, but Dawson's grounder didn't go the required 10 yards and the Ravens took over at the 38.

Flacco, who went 12 of 19 for 102 yards, bought some time rolling left and found Mason for the TD just 1:30 into the third.

Cleveland couldn't sustain any drives in the second half, and the Browns' last chance ended when Reed intercepted in the end zone with 4:35 left. McCoy ended up 15 of 29 for 149 yards, and fell to 2-5 as a starter.

As usual, Baltimore's defense made the big plays to swing momentum in the first half.

Cornerback Chris Carr stripped Mohamed Massaquoi fighting for yardage after a short completion and linebacker Jameel McClain recovered at Cleveland's 21. Flacco then rifled a TD pass over the middle to Houshmandzadeh for a 10-7 lead.

The Browns dipped into their bag of trick plays to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace took the snap in the shotgun and made an inside handoff to Hillis, who pitched it back to Massaquoi. The wide receiver's pass hung in the air, but Brian Robiskie made a diving catch in the corner of the end zone. Ravens coach John Harbaugh challenged, but replays confirmed the call and Robiskie had his second career TD in two weeks.

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