BALTIMORE — Their postseason hopes on the line, the Browns were just as erratic, unfocused, and undisciplined as they had been for most of the previous 11 games.
Their 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night in M&T Bank Stadium, while totally in character, was a reflection on the coaching staff as much as the players.
Defensive tackle Malik McDowell was called for a late high out of bounds. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney whiffed on a Lamar Jackson run. Coach Kevin Stefanski dialed up a too cute direct snap to receiver Jarvis Landry that resulted in a fumble.
The offense was just as stagnant as the unit that had scored more than 17 points just once in the previous six games.
With a chance to take the lead with 45 seconds left before the half, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield let the ball slip out of his hands as he went back to pass. It was one of four turnovers by the two teams in the final 3:04 of the second quarter. Landry and Mayfield lost fumbles, safeties Grant Delpit and Ronnie Harrison intercepted Jackson.
The Browns took incompetence to a new level on special teams, failing to field the correct number of men three times in the final 3:11 of the first quarter.
Kicker Chase McLaughlin picked the worst time to falter, missing a 46-yard field goal wide left and dinging his second try from the same distance off the left upright before it fell in.
Their regression from 2020 was so dramatic it made last season feel like an impossible dream, not the start of sustained success that it was supposed to be. That notion turned out to be too optimistic, with reigning NFL Coach of the Year Stefanski just as shaky as his charges in terms of his play-calling and failure to halt the Browns’ self-inflicted wounds.
Yet the Browns still had a chance to beat the Ravens and make winning ugly their calling card.
It wasn’t surprising they didn’t, failing to clean up their messes in the second half just as they have all season.