Ravens hold off Browns as NFL's regular officials return
Some things don't change. Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur can get just as upset at the regular officials as he did with the replacements.
Shurmur was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct while arguing an intentional grounding call as his team was moving the ball in the fourth quarter of the Browns' 23-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night.
A drive that might have produced a touchdown ended up yielding only a field goal in a game that eventually was decided on the game's final play.
"I can't do that," Shurmur said. "It's an emotional game, and I got to make sure I keep my emotions in check."
The Browns (0-4) remained winless and were heavy underdogs to the Ravens (3-1), but rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and his teammates made it close, in part due to three 50-plus-yard field goals by Phil Dawson.
"We're close in a lot of ways," Shurmur said. "But as I mentioned in the last game, until we quantify it with a win, we've got a lot of work to do."
Weeden completed 25 of 52 for 320 yards, but he also had an out pattern jumped for a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown by Cary Williams in the third quarter.
"I put us in a tough spot," Weeden said. "I told a lot of guys on offence, a lot of guys on defence, 'Hey, man, it's a seven-point game and I spotted them seven."'
Even so, Weeden had a final chance to send the game to overtime.
Cleveland began its last drive with 1:05 to go on its own 10. Weeden moved the Browns to the Baltimore 33 before a fourth-down pass into the end zone fell incomplete. But a personal foul penalty on Baltimore linebacker Paul Kruger gave Cleveland one more play.
That pass sailed out of the end zone.
"Too much juice," Weeden lamented.
The final sequence was not unlike the controversial ending of Monday night's Green Bay-Seattle game, when a Hail Mary pass was ruled a touchdown. That play, and the furor it created, hastened negotiations that brought the regular officials back.
The lockout ended late Wednesday, bringing about the exit of the unpopular replacement refs. And so, finally, the tenured officials were in place for Week 4.
"I thought they handled [the game] great," Shurmur said. "I had all the confidence in the world that this was going to be officiated in the right way."
The Browns have lost nine straight to the Ravens, whose 13-game home winning streak is the longest current run in the NFL.
The Browns have lost their first four games for the third time since 1998. They finished 2-14 in 1999 and 5-11 in 2009.
Cleveland played the majority of the game without wide receiver and punt returner Joshua Cribbs, who sustained a concussion while returning a punt late in the first quarter.
Cribbs had his helmet knocked off and lost the handle on the ball after absorbing a hard hit by Dannell Ellerbe. It was a legal tackle, shoulder to helmet, and the officials did not call a penalty. Cribbs lay prone for several minutes before finally rising to his feet and walking off the field.