BALTIMORE (AP)On a night he threw a career-high four interceptions, Lamar Jackson still produced one incredible moment of brilliance.
That was enough for the Baltimore Ravens, who now have the best record in the AFC after gutting out another tense victory.
Jackson pulled off one of his signature scrambles in the third quarter, buying enough time to throw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews, and the Ravens went on to a 16-10 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night.
Jackson, who returned after missing last weekend’s win over Chicago with an illness, was subpar aside from that one TD throw.
”Our defense just played lights out today,” Jackson said. ”I’m ticked off, but I told all those guys: ‘Way to have our back, way to have my back.”’
Both teams spent much of their prime-time showcase making crucial mistakes. Baltimore only managed one touchdown, but Jackson made it a memorable one. Dogged by Cleveland’s pass rush all night, he zig-zagged all the way back to about the 35-yard line before lofting a pass over the middle to a remarkably open Andrews in the end zone.
That made it 13-3, and the Ravens (8-3) held on from there. They are now 6-1 in games decided by eight points or fewer.
Cleveland (6-6) never could get its running game – which entered ranked No. 1 in the league – going against the Baltimore defensive front. Nick Chubb managed only 16 yards on eight carries, and Kareem Hunt had 20 yards on seven attempts.
”Our run game has been very good and we’ve run against loaded boxes like that,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. ”As a run offense, we’ve done better than that.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh improved to 18-2 in prime-time games at home and 23-4 overall against the Browns.
”Defense was just off the charts,” Harbaugh said. ”That’s one of the best defensive performances that we’ve seen out here in a long time.”
Baker Mayfield threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to David Njoku late in the third quarter, but Cleveland didn’t score again. Up 13-10, the Ravens took over with 6:28 remaining in the game and nearly ran out the rest of the clock. A holding call on guard Ben Powers helped stall that drive, and Justin Tucker’s 49-yard field goal pushed the lead to six with 1:10 to play.
The Browns never got a first down on their final possession.
This was a far cry from December, when these teams played one of the most exciting games of the 2020 NFL season – a 47-42 Ravens victory in Cleveland. This time, a quiet first half devolved into a series of miscues toward the end of the second quarter, including five turnovers in the final 3:04.
The Ravens used up 8:41 off the clock on a 17-play drive, but settled for a field goal and a 6-0 lead after guard Kevin Zeitler committed a false start on fourth-and-goal from the 1. The Browns drove into Baltimore territory, but gave the ball away on a trick play. Receiver Jarvis Landry took a shotgun snap and moved around as if to throw, but he was hit and fumbled.
The Browns answered quickly with a takeaway of their own, when a pass by Jackson caromed to Denzel Ward for an interception. Cleveland turned that turnover into a field goal.
Jackson was intercepted again, giving the Browns the ball at the Baltimore 28 with 56 seconds left. Two plays later, Mayfield lost the ball – nobody was even credited with a forced fumble – and the Ravens recovered near midfield.
Jackson threw his third interception of the quarter with 21 seconds left in the half.
”Defense, I thought, played great,” Mayfield said. ”We need to play better, make more plays, complementary football.”
Cleveland’s mistakes weren’t confined to the end of the first half. Chase McLaughlin missed a 46-yard field goal in the first quarter, and then the Browns kept a Ravens drive alive when they were called for too many men on the field as Baltimore lined up to go for it on fourth-and-2 from its own 33.
What was remarkable about that was that Cleveland had just called a timeout after appearing to have substitution issues on that fourth down. Then the Browns came out of the timeout and were called for too many men on the field anyway.
”That’s coaching,” Stefanski said. ”That’s on me.”
Tucker made a 52-yard kick at the end of that possession to give the Ravens a 3-0 lead.
Myles Garrett caught Jackson early in the game for his league-leading 14th sack, tying the Browns’ single-season record set by Reggie Camp in 1984.
Cleveland T Jack Conklin, who returned from an elbow injury for this game, hurt his knee in the first quarter. He tried to walk off gingerly, but then his right knee seemed to give out. … Hunt was in his first game back from a calf injury. … Ravens DT Calais Campbell (concussion) missed the game. … Browns TE Harrison Bryant hurt his ankle. He and Conklin will both have MRIs.
Browns: Off next weekend, then face the Ravens again in their next game in a scheduling quirk. That game is Dec. 12 in Cleveland.
Ravens: Play another division rival next Sunday at Pittsburgh.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL