Baltimore shuts down Cleveland
BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens were struggling to score, and then, Derek Anderson came to the rescue.
Unfortunately for the Cleveland Browns, Anderson is their quarterback.
Baltimore turned two of Anderson’s interceptions into a pair of touchdowns during a 50-second span of the third quarter, and the Ravens further damaged an already agonizing season for the Browns with a 28-10 victory Sunday.
Ed Reed returned one of the interceptions 32 yards for a score, and Le’Ron McClain scored his first two NFL touchdowns on a pair of 1-yard runs — both during a 21-point third quarter that enabled Baltimore (2-0) to turn a 10-7 halftime deficit into an 18-point lead.
“I knew it was just a question of when,” said Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs, referring to the big plays by the defense.
Anderson had another trying day in an effort to generate some offense for Cleveland, which was picked by many to be a contender in the AFC North. Anderson went 14 for 37 for 125 yards, was sacked five times and threw three interceptions.
“We didn’t execute and pretty much gave them 14 points off turnovers,” he said. “I’m just frustrated. I expect more out of myself.”
The Browns (0-3) have scored only two touchdowns in their three defeats. The last team to reach the playoffs after losing its first three games was the 1998 Buffalo Bills.
“I don’t know whether we’re trying to live on the success we had last year, but it’s not working,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “So we’re going to have to do a lot better, or this thing is really going to get away from us.”
Back from a knee injury, Willis McGahee rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown for the Ravens, who were forced to take last week off when Hurricane Ike postponed their game at Houston.
Maybe it was the layoff, but Baltimore looked sluggish in falling behind, 10-7, at halftime. But the Ravens took the lead for good by taking advantage of a turnover on the Browns’ first possession of the third quarter.
Kellen Winslow was hit by Ray Lewis while trying to catch a pass, and Chris McAlister plucked the ball from the air and took the interception to the Cleveland 12. Four plays later, McClain scored.
Reed then stepped in front of tight end Steve Heiden, caught Anderson’s pass and sprinted into the end zone for his fourth career interception return for a touchdown. Reed said he saw the play before, then pounced when the Browns ran it again.
“(Defensive coordinator) Rex Ryan told us to be patient and let the game come to us,” Reed said. “Know what they are doing, then strike!”
Later in the quarter, a 21-yard punt return by Jim Leonhard and a roughness penalty on Mike Adams gave Baltimore the ball at the Cleveland 35. The five-play drive ended with a touchdown run by McClain.
“In the second half we played poor football,” Crennel said. “We got penalties and gave them scores on turnovers.”
Asked about the 0-3 start, former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis (56 yards on 12 carries) said, “It’s pathetic. I don’t know what else to say.”
The victory kept the Ravens unbeaten under first-year coach John Harbaugh. Last year, Baltimore lost twice to Cleveland and finished 5-11 for coach Brian Billick.