CLEVELAND — On their best day, the Browns would have trouble beating the Baltimore Ravens.
So when Cleveland plays like it did Sunday afternoon, it has absolutely no chance.
Baltimore capitalized on a myriad of Browns mistakes, including four very preventable turnovers, as it dominated the final 31/2 quarters of a 20-10 victory.
The outcome was a bitter pill for embattled Cleveland coach Eric Mangini, but one he was forced to swallow.
“What killed us were the turnovers and mistakes that we made,” he said. “With all the different things a team like Baltimore can do, it makes it incredibly difficult to overcome our errors.
“That being said, I thought we had other opportunities to score to put ourselves in position at the end to at least be (within seven points) — and we just weren’t able to do it.”
The Browns came to the lakefront ready to rumble, which they made clear to the Ravens during the late morning warm-ups.
Fullback Lawrence Vickers jawed with Baltimore superstar Ray Lewis, which prompted linebacker Matt Roth to go after Terrell Suggs of the Ravens. The latter incident was on the verge of turning ugly before both scary individuals were separated.
Browns guard Eric Steinbach then mocked Lewis’ infamous dance during the player introductions, much to the delight of the home crowd.
“They came to play today. You could see it in pregame and you could see it right until the last second,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “I think the Browns are a really good football team and a highly motivated football team. We knew that coming in.”
Unfortunately, the Ravens are a much better football team, which is why they are headed to the playoffs for the third year in a row.
Cleveland, meanwhile, has qualified for the postseason exactly once since 1995 when the original Browns moved to Baltimore.
The Ravens have one of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks in Joe Flacco, while Cleveland is hoping that Colt McCoy can join that group next season. McCoy looked every bit like the rookie he is by throwing three interceptions, two going to notorious ballhawk Ed Reed.
“It was a playoff atmosphere (on the field),” Reed said. “Much respect to Cleveland. They hung around and gave themselves a chance to win. We just made a couple more plays.”
Perhaps as important as who it has under center, Baltimore has a fine offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron, while Browns counterpart Brian Daboll remains a work in progress.
Daboll has shown a knack for calling the right plays early in games, as he did against the Ravens, but gets less effective as the clock winds down.
Cleveland wide receiver Joshua Cribbs finally spoke out about that recurring trend, but stopped short of outright criticism.
“If I knew what to do, I’d have a headset on,” Cribbs said. “That’s their job.”
That might not be the case for long, though, as Daboll and Mangini are now sitting on very hot seats.
It’s not quite as dangerous as the space heater that set Reed’s jacket ablaze on the sideline, but it could wind up burning a lot more people.
“I didn’t realize that he actually had caught on fire,” Harbaugh quipped. “What’s my daughter say? Stop, drop and roll, OK? We’ll have to remember that.”
So will the Browns’ coaching staff. But unfortunately for them, not even Smokey the Bear can stop the wildfire that appears ready to engulf them.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.