CLEVELAND — FirstEnergy Stadium buzzed with nervous energy as the seconds ticked off the clock Sunday afternoon, and the cold air rolling in off Lake Erie wasn’t the only thing sending a chill down the spines of fans. With the Browns’ playoff hopes on the line and the Ravens fighting their way back into the game, there were three plays from defensive ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, and cornerback Denzel Ward, that effectively saved the Browns from losing the game—and in turn, the season.
While the Browns' offense played more effectively in the first half of Sunday's game than they have in weeks, they weren't able to muster up that efficiency in the second half.
Boasting a comfortable 24-6 lead heading into the second half, and challenged by a Ravens offense that was sans Lamar Jackson, who was carted off the field with an ankle injury in the second quarter, the Browns seemed to be on a roll. But with two scoreless quarters, Cleveland let the Ravens back in to make it a game.
If it weren't for a defensive touchdown from Garrett, the Browns' lead would have been blown in the final few minutes of the game.
In the second quarter, with Tyler Huntley in at quarterback for Jackson, Garrett burst through the offensive line, striping the ball from Huntley on Baltimore's 20-yard line.
But his play didn't end there. Garrett ran around and scooped the loose ball up, rushing into the end zone for his first career touchdown—putting the Browns up 24-3. The play also made Garrett the franchise's single-season sack leader.
Garrett's teammates loved seeing him make the play, especially Clowney.
“I thought it was a great play. I was trying to tip it to myself at one point and I seen him come up there and get it and, I was like ‘You got the whole trifecta — the sack, the fumble recovery and the touchdown,'" Clowney said. "So, great play from a great player. Something you can’t really say, ‘wow,’ cause, hell, he done did it before. So ain’t nothing new, he just did it again.”
Garrett didn't let himself get too excited and stayed focused on the rest of the game, he said.
“Let’s get another one. The game’s not over, a lot of time left and it came down to the end so I was just trying to make a big play for us,” Garrett said when asked his thoughts after making the play.
Garrett's touchdown gave the Browns enough points to win, but there were two other plays crucial to the victory.
After a successful onside kick from the Ravens that hit off fullback Andy Janovich and was recovered by Chuck Clark, Baltimore found themselves with possession on their own 41-yard line with just over a minute to play and only down two points thanks to a previous touchdown.
With Justin Tucker—the kicker who just can't miss—any bit of yardage gained by the Ravens would have made a field goal win a strong possibility.
Browns fans held their breath as the defense took the field, hoping that after giving up a touchdown on the last drive they could put the pressure on and get one more defensive stop. And that started with Clowney.
On 2nd-and-10, Clowney pushed around the offensive line from the outside, cutting back in and taking Huntley, who didn't for a second see him coming, down hard for a loss of 10 yards.
“I just felt that we needed to make a play. I said, ‘Man, somebody got to make a big play for us right now.’ We just need a play, and I tried to make one, whatever it takes to make a play," Clowney said.
The Browns had pushed the Ravens back to their own 31-yard line and made it 3rd-and-20. But a 14-yard pass to Mark Andrews put them in yet another position to continue the drive.
That's when The Warden stepped in.
It was 4th-and-6 on Baltimore's 45-yard line with a minute to play. The Browns' defense hadn't shown much promise that they could get a stop on fourth down at that point, having allowed the Ravens to convert all three of their previous forth down attempts.
It seemed as though the inevitable Tucker field goal win was just seconds away, until Ward blew up the Ravens' final play of the game.
Huntley's short pass to Rashod Bateman was complete, but Ward had his coverage down pat and wrapped Bateman up as soon as he had his hands on the ball, taking him down behind the line of scrimmage and giving the Browns the ball back with 56 seconds left, allowing Baker Mayfield to take a knee to end the game.
"We were in zero coverage, and he just tried to hesitate, then run a quick slant, and I was able to get my eyes on it and drive on it and make the play," Ward said. "I just went through my keys really that we were taught and was able to attack on it and get him down before he got the first down."
The Browns survived the Ravens, and while it was a team effort, Garrett, Clowney and Ward had a big hand in saving the day and their hopes of a playoff run.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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