These are not the “same old Browns.” Since Hue Jackson’s firing, Cleveland is 5-2 and has been a thorn in the side of former playoff contenders like the Broncos, Panthers, and Falcons. With Baker Mayfield behind center, the team was playing with a swagger that didn’t just make it dangerous, but for the first time in years, also made it fun.
But over the course of two plays Sunday, the Browns were the Browns again, in all their glory. One 10-second span in Week 17’s game against the Ravens somehow saw the team blow up a pair of 93-yard touchdowns, taking two top-10 moments and turning them into zero points in the process.
One came thanks to an awful call from the officials. The other due to a rare glitch from top wideout Jarvis Landry. And now, instead of heading into halftime of a game Baltimore needs to win in order to clinch a playoff spot down 20-14, Cleveland rolled into halftime of their spoiler effort trailing by 13.
First, officials blew a Cleveland fumble recovery dead to award the Ravens a touchdown
Lamar Jackson had spent the first half of his game torching the Browns with his legs, scoring a pair of touchdowns to open up a double-digit lead on his home field. He was primed to add a third when he took a designed QB draw to the right side of his offensive line and dove toward the end zone, only to have the ball pop out of his hands, get knocked deep behind the line of scrimmage, and be picked up by Cleveland defensive back Jabrill Peppers, who had a clear path to the end zone and few, if any, Ravens capable of chasing him down from behind.
This should have been six game-changing points for the Browns. Instead, the line judge award six to the Ravens. Officials ruled Jackson had broken the plane of the goal line before fumbling, negating Peppers’ recovery. This was the wrong call.
Officials reviewed the touchdown as they do every scoring play, only to find Jackson hadn’t breached the goal line, making the ball the referee had blown dead should have been the easiest touchdown Peppers has ever scored in his life. The good news was the Baltimore touchdown didn’t count. The bad news was neither did the one Peppers almost certainly would have scored.
The Browns nearly got their touchdown right back, but botched a would-be monster play
The Browns got the ball back at the point of Peppers’ recovery — their own seven-yard line. Mayfield dropped back on 1st and 10 with every intent in jumping on the momentum his defense had created for him. He found a wide-open Landry streaking down the right side of the field and unleashed a dart downfield. Landry adjusted to the ball, extended his arms to make an over-the-shoulder catch, and …
Oh no no no.
The ball clanked off Landry, the team’s leading receiver, and fell harmlessly to the turf. Three plays later, the Browns would punt the ball back to the Ravens, having scored zero points on a pair of plays that should have been 93-yard touchdowns.