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Browns rally falls short in regular season finale

By MARY KAY CABOT • Updated Dec 30, 2018 at 9:26 PM

BALTIMORE — With a chance to finish with the Browns’ first winning record since 2007 and knock the Ravens out of the playoffs, Baker Mayfield threw his third interception late in the fourth quarter as the Browns' late drive ended in Baltimore territory and they came up short in the season finale.

On fourth and 10 from the Ravens’ 39 with the Browns trailing 26-24, Mayfield fired a pass for Duke Johnson and was picked off with 1:06 to play by linebacker C.J. Mosley to seal the loss.

Mayfield played against the No. 1 defense in the NFL, and discovered what he must do in the offseason to beat a great defense. He set the NFL record for rookie TD pass at 27, his third touchdown pass coming with 3:27 to go on a 1-yard slant to Antonio Callaway.

Mayfield finished 23-of-42 passing for 376 yards, with the three TDs and three interceptions for a 79.1 rating.

The Browns lost to the Ravens to close out their season at 7-8-1. It was still the biggest turnaround in team history, but failed to accomplish their goal of finishing above .500 for the first time since they went 10-6 in 2007.

The Ravens clinched the AFC North with a 10-6 record and prevented the Steelers from going to the playoffs. The Steelers beat the Bengals and needed the Ravens to lose to win the division.

The game was an epic battle between two Heisman Trophy-winning rookie quarterbacks in Mayfield and Lamar Jackson — the first pick in the first round and the last — and Jackson proved too much for the Browns’ defense, especially his legs.

Jackson rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries with two TDs. He also had another 33-yard TD run wiped out by a holding call. Overall the Ravens rushed for 296 yards, and the Browns missed tackles all afternoon.

Mayfield, who fell to 6-7 as a starter, began the game with a pair of first-half interceptions by Jimmy Smith and closed out the game with his third. It was the second time this season Mayfield threw three interceptions.

The Browns finished the season 3-2-1 in the division, and established themselves as a team to be reckoned with in the AFC North.

Mayfield took over with 1:49 left at his own 26 with the Browns down 26-24 and needing a field goal. He hit Breshad Perriman with a 19-yard pass and Jarvis Landry with a 16-yarder to the Ravens’ 39. Both withstood reviews.

But on fourth and 10, Mosley abandoned a pass rush, dropped into short coverage and swiped the pass to send the Ravens and their fans into a frenzy.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith picked off Mayfield twice in the first half, including once on the Browns’ opening drive of the game.

Mosley tipped a pass intended for Antonio Callaway, and Smith swiped it. It was Mayfield’s 12th interception of the season. Fortunately for him, the Ravens only managed a field goal off the pick after Jackson was high on a third-down toss to John Brown.

Smith picked off another Mayfield pass intended for David Njoku with 3:59 left in the half. It was deflected by Tavon Young. The Ravens failed to convert the pick.

Mayfield set the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes with 27 on the 1-yard TD pass to Callaway that pulled the Browns to within 26-24 with 3:24 left in the game. He broke the record of 26 set by Indianapolis' Peyton Manning and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, and he did it despite starting only 13 games.

Mayfield tied the rookie record with a 48-yard TD pass to Jarvis Landry that pulled the Browns to within 20-14 with 12:27 left in the third quarter. The TD was set up by a 37-yard punt return by Callaway, and happened on the first play of the drive. Mayfield faked a shovel pass to Duke Johnson and then found Landry wide open behind the defense.

The Browns were burned for 64 yards and two rushing touchdowns on back-to-back drives by Jackson in the first half. He ran 25 yards off right guard on the first one to put the Ravens up 10-7 with 4:46 left in the first quarter, and found a hole on the right side for an 8-yard TD on the next drive. The Browns surrendered runs of 15, 24 and 20 on the drive, with Jamie Collins and Joe Schobert both missing tackles on the latter run by Kenneth Dixon. Overall, the Ravens rushed for 179 yards in the first half.

Jackson had a 33-yard TD run with 10:28 left in the third quarter wiped out by a holding call. Jackson who sneaked around the left side, executed a perfect front flip into the end zone. The TD would’ve make it 27-14 Ravens. They came back on their next possessions and made it 23-14 on a 44-yard Justin Tucker field goal.

The Browns produced a sensational goal-line stand in the second quarter after Mayfield’s second pick, but the officials cost them a TD by blowing the whistle too soon. The Ravens drove the Browns’ 2 on a 25-yard catch by Willie Snead to the 2, but the Browns stopped tight end Maxx Williams for no gain on 1st and goal and then held Jackson to a yard on second down. On third and goal from the 1, Jackson leaped and tried to reach the ball over the plane, but Ogunjobi knocked the ball out and Jabrill Peppers recovered and sprinted downfield for what could’ve been a 99-yard touchdown.

But the officials blew the whistle, and ruled the play a touchdown, which would’ve been Jackson’s third of the game with 1:50 left in the half. Instead, it was overturned upon review and the Browns got the ball back at their 7. The problem was, it cost Peppers a fumble recovery for a touchdown that would’ve pulled the Browns to within 20-14 just before the half.

The Browns went three-and-out after a Mayfield pass went off a wide-open Jarvis Landry’s helmet at the Browns’ 35. Baltimore took over at the Browns’ 46 with 1:27 left in the half, but a Myles Garrett sack and a Ty Montgomery drop stymied the drive and they punted.

Mayfield started again at his 7 with 36 seconds left in the half, and quickly moved to the Raven’s 33 on a 21-yard pass to Callaway and 40-yard strike to Rashard Higgins after Mayfield escaped pressure.

Greg Joseph’s 46-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as time expired in the half to keep the score 20-7 Ravens.

Breshad Perriman, the Raven’s 2015 first-round pick, was cut by Baltimore on Sept. 1, and made the Ravens pay on the Browns’ second drive. He got behind cornerback Tavon Young and caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield. After the TD, his second of the season, he held his hand to ear as if to hear the boos that erupted after he carried the ball for 5 yards on a reverse on the opening drive.

Perriman told Cleveland.com this week that Mayfield’s faith in him has restored his confidence in himself.

Mayfield also dropped a perfect 38-yard strike over the shoulder of Antonio Callaway on the four-play drive.

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