BALTIMORE (AP) — When the Cleveland Browns look back on their 2015 season, they might remember their afternoon against the Baltimore Ravens as a one of the highlights in a climb to respectability.
Or, their 33-30 overtime victory on Sunday could turn to out to be something far more special.
With record-setting Josh McCown leading the way, Cleveland ended a run of seven straight road losses against the Ravens. Afterward, the sentiment in the Browns’ locker room was that maybe this is the start of something big.
“I talked to the guys,” coach Mike Pettine said. “Sometimes you get wins that define things for you, that become a turning point, and we’re hoping that was this for us. We did a lot of bad things, but we found a way. That’s what this league is all about.”
Cleveland (2-3) rallied from a 12-point deficit in regulation before McCown calmly directed a 51-yard drive that produced the game-winning field goal in overtime by Travis Coons.
The Browns lost 13 of the 14 previous games in this lopsided AFC North rivalry, but they’re 1-0 against the Ravens with McCown at quarterback after he threw for a team-record 457 yards against a porous, injury-riddled secondary.
“When you consider the full scope of it, it looks like we did show our full character today,” McCown said. “We were behind, and we kept fighting and responded like this. Sometimes a win like this means more than just one win.”
Baltimore (1-4) was hoping to cast aside its traditional patsy, but now the Ravens sit alone in the division cellar. This might also turn out to be a defining game for Baltimore, for all the wrong reasons.
“I think the record speaks for itself, and what kind of challenge it is,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We haven’t been in this position before, so I can’t speak from experience, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Some things we learned about the Ravens and Browns:
FLAG DAY: The teams were penalized a combined 21 times, including 12 against the Ravens — many at pivotal moments.
McCown threw a third-quarter incompletion on third down from the Baltimore 15, but Ravens linebacker Jason Babin was called for illegal use of hands. That set up a 10-yard touchdown run by McCown to get Cleveland to 21-16.
“The penalties were a major problem,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s too many of them.”
WHAT A RUSH: The Browns defense entered Sunday’s game ranked 31st in the NFL in defending the run.
In the first half, Cleveland — bolstered by the return of defensive end Desmond Bryant — held the Ravens to 34 yards on 11 carries.
After that, however, the Browns reverted to form. Javorius Allen broke a 44-yard run down the home sideline to the Cleveland 18-yard line in the third quarter, and the Ravens finished with 181 yards rushing, 121 of them from Justin Forsett.
WOUNDED: Playing without injured receiver Steve Smith and starting tight end Crockett Gillmore, the Ravens still managed to ring up 377 yards in offense. But the defense yielded 505 yards, most of them on McCown passes.
Injuries to defensive backs Lardarius Webb, Will Davis and Kyle Arrington (in overtime) didn’t help.
“It’s huge when your players go down, but it’s no excuse,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said.
Forsett hurt his right ankle late in regulation and did not return. His status for Sunday’s game in San Francisco has not yet been determined.
ADJUSTMENT MADE: When the Ravens defense blitzed to try to negate Cleveland’s run game, the Browns adjusted.
Sometimes Cleveland went to multiple receivers and spread out the offense; sometimes McCown looked toward running back Duke Johnson, who hauled in eight passes for 55 yards.
“They were blitzing the safety and trying to do whatever they could to take away the run game,” Browns tackle Joe Thomas said. “So after the first quarter, we said we’re going to play with three wide receivers and if they’re going to try and blitz the run game, we’re going to just make the throws on the edges and take the ball downfield.
“We knew it was going to be one of those huge passing yards games.”
McCown surpassed 300 yards in a third straight game, the first time that’s ever been done by a Cleveland quarterback.
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