November 26, 2014

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Wright’s wrongs doom Browns’ upset bid

BALTIMORE — Eric Wright kept saying he did­n’t feel like himself during the Ravens’ 24-17 win Sunday.

He didn’t look like himself, either.

Or like an NFL cornerback.

Wright got a good look at the back of Anquan Boldin’s No. 81 Ravens jersey as he spent all after­noon trying to catch up to him. Boldin caught eight passes for 142 yards, including all three Ravens touchdowns.

Wright, who played the worst game of his four­year career, was in coverage — if not the vicinity — on all three.

More photos below.

“I didn’t feel like myself at all,” he said. “He’s a good player, but I don’t think it’s anything that he did that I wasn’t expecting, or anything special that he did. I just didn’t play up to my ability, not even close. “It’s just unfortunate, just because you have 10 other guys on the field that are doing their jobs and really depending on me to be a certain type of player and I wasn’t that player by a long shot today.”

Wright said he wasn’t sick, but he looked like he was in a funk from the beginning. His usual swagger was missing, and everything he tried failed. If he undercut the receiver, the pass would go over the top. If he bit on the first move, there was a second one coming.

“Mentally we have to be at a certain place in order to play the game,” he said. “You try to get there as best as you can.”

The struggles started almost immediately and never let up.

On Baltimore’s second possession, Boldin beat Wright deep down the middle and Wright could’ve been called for pass interference after making contact on the incompletion. The nocall didn’t matter as Boldin beat him easily for an 8-yard post in the back of the end zone.

The catch gave Boldin 600 for his career, as he became the fastest in NFL history to hit the mark. He needed only 98 games, while Indianapolis’ Marvin Harrison took 102.

“I guess it’s something to be proud of,” Boldin said, “but at this point I don’t really want to dwell on it. I always want to stay hungry.”

He ate Wright alive.

The second score was a 12-yard skinny post, where Wright fell for a little fake toward the corner. Earlier on the drive, Boldin beat him on a slant for 14, then ran down the seam uncovered for a 27-yard completion as the defense was confused at the snap.

The third touchdown was the winner, coming after Cleveland had clawed back to take a 17-14 lead to open the fourth quarter.

Wright had good coverage on third-and-7 to begin the drive, but Boldin caught a 13-yard cross. Then Derrick Mason got into the Wright business, catching a 15-yard comeback on him on first-and-15.

After tight end Todd Heap outmuscled dimeback Mike Adams for 14 yards on thirdand- 13, Boldin struck again. On third-and-5 from the 27, the Browns called an all-out blitz. Boldin took a step toward the corner before cutting back to the post, Wright got turned around and the blitz never arrived.

Joe Flacco’s pass was waiting in the end zone. “You have to guard your man as tight as possible to give them the opportunity to get to the quarterback,” Wright said. “Anytime you turn somebody loose as open as I let him get, I mean, basically wide open … You can’t really expect the pressure to get there if a guy is turned loose like that.”

“I feel like they put him in some positions where it was single coverage,” Boldin said. “That’s one of the matchups that we felt we could take advantage of.”

Coach Eric Mangini praised Boldin and criticized the pass rush for failing to get to Flacco. The Browns, missing sack leader Marcus Benard (ankle), had two quarterback hits and no sacks.

They had no answer for Boldin.

“We tried multiple things, we tried man, we tried zone, we tried doubling, none really worked that well,” Mangini said.

Wright’s day didn’t end until T.J. Houshmandzadeh made his only catch, a 4-yarder on third-and-3 as the Ravens ran out the clock. Guess who was in coverage?

“I had a horrible day and I let my team down,” Wright said. “I never settled in. I never got to where I needed to be.”

Sheldon Brown was the cornerback on the other side. He’s in his ninth year and said he’s had days like the one Wright experienced.

“There’s been some games I’ve played in where I didn’t feel like myself when I woke up in the morning,” he said. “You have to forget those bad moments. You can’t get it back, no matter how bad it hurts. You just can’t get it back.”

Wright could only smirk, let out a little chuckle and turn away when asked if it was a long day. Then he opened up.

“I hold a lot of responsibility for the defense and for this team and guys expect me to play at a certain level,” he said. “I just couldn’t be the player we needed for us to win. Because if you take away even just one of those plays, we win the game. It’s as simple as that.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.