Typically, when two teams that share a combined win percentage of .250 square off, it isn’t must-see television. That’s especially true when the undefeated Golden State Warriors are playing a nail-biter in Utah at the same time (don't worry, Steph took care of business). But regardless of the stakes, Monday’s Ravens/Browns game was one for the ages.
Will Hill, a journeyman who got his start in the Arena Football League, recovered a blocked field goal on the last play and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown as the Ravens claimed a 33-27 victory. Travis Coons’ 51-yard field goal attempt was blocked by defensive end Brent Urban, who was playing in his first NFL game. The miss snapped Coons’ streak of 18 consecutive field goals made, the most ever to start a career.
The game-clinching kick-six was preceded by a series of miscalculations by Browns quarterback Austin Davis (we’ll get to why he was playing in a minute). The Browns followed up a six-yard catch from Brian Hartline by taking forever to call their next play. After wasting 32 valuable seconds, Davis decided to tuck and run for a seven-yard gain but couldn’t get out of bounds to stop the clock. That cost Cleveland its second timeout of the half. Duke Johnson was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on the next play, setting up what would have been the longest field goal of Coons’ career.
Davis entered the game with 8:29 remaining after Josh McCown went down with a painful collarbone injury. With Johnny Manziel looking on from Mike Pettine’s doghouse, Davis led the Browns on a six-play, 71-yard drive to even the score at 27. Davis finished it off by connecting with Travis Benjamin on a 42-yard touchdown. Duke Johnson read the blitz perfectly, giving Davis extra time to deliver a crisp throw.
The Browns regained possession less than a minute later on a heads up play by Tramon Williams. The former Packer picked off Matt Schaub to set up a first-and-10 at the Ravens’ 46-yard-line. The interception was Schaub’s second of the game following a pick-six by Karlos Dansby early in the second half.
In his first game as a starter since 2013, Schaub completed 20-of-34 passes for 232 yards while rushing three times for 10 yards. Monday marked Joe Flacco’s first absence after starting 122 games in a row to begin his career. Flacco tore his ACL in last week’s win over the Rams, leaving Schaub to start the rest of the season.
The Ravens, winners of two in a row and three of their last four, received solid contributions from rookie running back Buck Allen. The USC alum bulldozed his way past a slew of defenders for his first career touchdown and finished the night with 84 yards on 16 touches. Though he was also the intended receiver on both of Schaub’s interceptions, Kamar Aiken still managed to reel in six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. Kaelin Clay scored Baltimore’s other touchdown on an 82-yard punt return in the first quarter.
The Ravens still have an outside chance to make the playoffs if they win out, though it’s more likely the stretch run will be used to evaluate young talent. Meanwhile, the Browns must decide whether to give Manziel another chance or hold firm and bench him for the final five games following his latest off-field shenanigans. It will be a lot harder for Pettine to keep Manziel chained to the bench if McCown’s injury is serious.
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Good News for Gronk
When Rob Gronkowski fell to the ground Sunday in Denver, it looked like his season might be over. Footage quickly surfaced of Gronk walking through the tunnel to get X-rays, which many of us took as a good sign. Seeing Gronkowski bend over to load up his luggage was also encouraging. But after losing Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola in consecutive weeks, Pats fans were still bracing for the worst.
But the bad news never came. Gronk’s MRI came back clean. He has a little bruising to take care of, but the season-ending injury we all feared can safely be ruled out.
Gronk’s timetable is still a bit fuzzy. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggested he’d miss one game at the most while ESPN’s Adam Schefter believes it’s a multi-week injury.
Now that Denver owns the tiebreaker over New England, the Pats’ next five games are more important than ever. Tom Brady had almost no one to throw to by the end of Sunday night’s game, but at least it looks like he’ll have Danny Amendola (sprained knee) back for Week 13. The Pats’ decision to cut Chris Harper would seem to be an indication that New England isn’t worried about its wide receiver depth.
The Patriots aren’t healthy on either side of the ball right now. C.J. Anderson was able to run wild Sunday after run-stopper Dont’a Hightower exited with a knee injury. He’s since been diagnosed with a sprained MCL. That’s the same injury Matt Forte suffered a few weeks back. He missed three games before returning against the Packers on Thanksgiving. Jamie Collins missed his fourth straight game Sunday but looks to be on the comeback trail after returning to a limited practice on Friday. Collins has been over his virus for a couple weeks now but needed time to get his strength back after losing a lot of weight. The injury-plagued Pats get the Eagles in Week 13.
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Quick Hits: Tyler Eifert left Sunday’s game with a stinger but his tests showed no structural damage. It’s unclear if he’ll be available next week against the Browns … Chris Johnson broke his tibia in Sunday’s win over San Francisco. With Andre Ellington battling turf toe, rookie David Johnson will likely get the start Sunday at St. Louis … The Seahawks officially placed Jimmy Graham (torn patellar tendon) on injured reserve. Coach Pete Carroll expects him back for the start of next season … According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the Broncos don’t expect Peyton Manning (foot) to return “anytime soon.” Brock Osweiler completed 23-of-42 passes for 270 yards in Sunday’s win over the previously undefeated Patriots … T.J. Ward suffered a high-ankle sprain on Sunday. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak is calling him “day to day” … Frank Gore might be wearing down. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said his veteran running back is “beat to crap.” Gore’s backup, Ahmad Bradshaw, was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Monday. Bradshaw hurt his wrist in Week 12 … Pagano confirmed Andrew Luck will be the Colts’ starting quarterback when he returns from a kidney injury. So far, the Colts are 4-0 with Matt Hasselbeck as the starter … The Giants placed right guard Geoff Schwartz on injured reserve. He broke his left leg in Sunday’s loss to the Redskins … The Dolphins fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor on Monday. He’ll be replaced by quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor … Cortland Finnegan came out of retirement to sign with the Panthers. Carolina needed depth at cornerback with Charles Tillman (sprained knee) sidelined … Coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars need to get T.J. Yeldon more involved inside the red zone. The rookie has scored just one touchdown on 156 rushing attempts this year … Ben Roethlisberger may not have suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss to Seattle. He took himself out of the game with about two minutes to go but his symptoms subsided quickly. Expect him to suit up next week against the Colts … Rishard Matthews is out indefinitely after breaking multiple ribs in Sunday’s loss to the Jets. Rookie DeVante Parker is expected to take his place in the starting lineup … Mike Pouncey was carted off with a foot injury on Sunday but it looks like he’ll be okay. The Dolphins are calling him day to day … Darrelle Revis remains in the league’s concussion protocol. His replacement at cornerback, Marcus Williams, is week to week with a sprained MCL … According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, USC touched base with Chip Kelly before promoting Clay Helton to the full-time head coaching position and signing him to a three-year extension. Former Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano and current Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson were also in consideration for the job … Jason Peters should be back for Sunday’s game against New England. He’s been out with a pinched nerve in his back since Week 7 … Chris Thompson was diagnosed with a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. He played through the injury Sunday and should be fine for next week’s Monday night game against the Cowboys … Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr said he’s been playing through a broken hand. Ouch … Martellus Bennett returned to practice on Monday. He sat out last week’s win over Green Bay with a rib injury … Andrew Quarless was given a year of probation and fined $1,000 for firing his gun off in public on the Fourth of July. He could be facing a suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy … Devin Hester is expected to make his season debut Sunday against Tampa Bay. He’s been out with turf toe … What do you guys think of Eli Manning’s new nickname? Is it better than Sauce Castillo?