CLEVELAND – On the field, there are few questions about the Baltimore Ravens .
With Ray Rice’s distressing situation still hanging over them, the Ravens pulled off a comeback win as Justin Tucker kicked a 32-yard field as time expired to give Baltimore a 23-21 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Tucker’s boot capped another challenging week for the Ravens (2-1), who continue to be dogged by their handling of Rice’s domestic violence suspension.
Joe Flacco set up Tucker’s game-winner with a 32-yard pass to Steve Smith with 1:28 left. The Ravens then ran the clock down before bringing in Tucker, who split the uprights and sent the Browns (1-2) to another tough loss. Both of Cleveland’s losses have come on last-play field goals.
Flacco finished 19 of 31 for 217 yards with one touchdown.
Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer completed 19 of 25 passes for 290 yards. The Browns failed to capitalize on several chances to put the Ravens away in the second half. Cleveland missed a field goal and had one blocked.
Along with the blown opportunities, the Browns had a fake play in which backup quarterback Johnny Manziel fooled Baltimore’s defence negated by a penalty.
Ravens rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro rushed for 91 yards. He filled in for Bernard Pierce — Rice’s replacement— who sat out with a thigh injury. Smith had five catches for 101 yards.
As issues about their handling of Rice’s suspension loom, the Ravens have been all business on the field.
They dismissed issues about Rice to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at home on Sept. 11 and came back in the final minutes to beat the Browns , ending a four-game road losing streak in the AFC North.
Not everything went Baltimore’s way. Valuable tight end Dennis Pitta was taken to a hospital after he appeared to sustain a serious hip injury in the first half. Pitta, who played in just four games last season with an injured right hip, went down without being hit after catching a short pass.
Rookie running backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell had rushing TDs for the Browns , who took a 21-17 lead into the fourth quarter and had the Ravens on their heels.
Tucker kicked a 21-yard field goal with five minutes to go to pull the Ravens within 21-20.
Baltimore had the ball inside Cleveland’s 5, but Flacco missed Torrey Smith in the back of the end zone on second down and then misfired on third, forcing coach John Harbaugh to kick the field goal. Earlier, Harbaugh gambled on fourth down at Cleveland’s 20 and Browns linebacker Jabaal Sheard wrapped up rookie Taliaferro on an inside handoff.
Hoyer completed a 70-yard pass to a wide-open Taylor Gabriel , who fell while making the catch. He got up but couldn’t outrun the Ravens . Cleveland had to settle for a field-goal attempt, but Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson got his hand on Billy Cundiff’s 36-yarder, keeping the Ravens within four.
On the previous series, the Browns failed to capitalize on an interception of Flacco when Cundiff’s 50-yard field goal hit the left upright.
Taliaferro’s first career TD gave the Ravens a 17-14 lead in the third.
The fourth-round draft pick from Coastal Carolina plowed through the right side for the score as the Ravens responded to Cleveland’s 80-yard drive to open the second half with one of their own.
Crowell’s 14-yard TD run gave the Browns a 14-10 lead in the third. Running left, Crowell got a nice block from fullback Ray Agnew and went in untouched as Cleveland opened the second half with another sustained drive.
The Ravens turned to their running game to take a 10-7 lead midway through in the second quarter.
Taliaferro, who began the season as Baltimroe’s fourth-string running back, opened the drive with a 31-yard run up the middle. Taliaferro added 31 more yards on six carries as the Ravens drove to the 9. On first down, Flacco then found Kyle Juszczyk for the score.
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