The Baltimore Ravens clinched a spot in the playoffs after beating the Cleveland Browns, 20-10, in a frigid AFC North battle Dec. 26 at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Baltimore played physical football on both offense and defense, claiming a sixth straight victory over their bitter division foe. The Ravens (11-4) are in contention for the playoffs for the third straight year, the first such streak in franchise history. They hold a wild-card slot, with the Pittsburgh Steelers still atop the division.

The Ravens sealed their trip to the playoffs when…

All-Pro safety Ed Reed intercepted a pass from Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy and returned it into Cleveland territory, giving Baltimore the ball with less than five minutes left in the game. The Ravens then milked the clock with their power running game.

Outstanding Player(s) of the Game:

Reed’s playoff-clinching interception was his second of the game and team-high sixth pick of the season. Reed still managed to lead the team in interceptions despite spending the first six games of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The nine-year veteran now has 52 career interceptions, the most recorded by any player since he was drafted by Baltimore in 2002.

Ravens third-year quarterback Joe Flacco also had an outstanding performance, completing 12 of 19 passes for 102 yards, two touchdowns and earning a passer rating of 90.2. Flacco has a career-high 25 touchdown passes this season, and is the fourth quarterback in NFL history to reach postseason in the first three seasons of a career.

“We’re definitely getting used to around here,” Flacco said. “But we don’t just want to be in the playoffs every year. We want to be a threat to win the Super Bowl.”

Unsung Heroes of the Game:

Cleveland tailback Peyton Hillis ran over Baltimore’s defense for 144 yards when the two teams faced each other earlier this season. But Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis told the media last week that there wouldn’t be any repeat performance from Hillis this time around. Lewis was right, thanks to the good play of the Ravens defensive line. Veteran lineman Corey Redding led the line with five tackles and helped hold Hillis to only 35 yards rushing.

Next Up:

Baltimore is still in the hunt for the AFC North division crown, which they can claim it if they close out the regular season with a win against the Cincinnati Bengals (3-11 overall) on Jan. 2 and the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4 overall) lose to the Browns (5-10), who finish the season that same day.

“We’re not done,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “Now we have to get 12 to have a chance to win the division. And we’re going to be ready.”
 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor