Listen, any doo-doo team can go out there and get the shit kicked out of them by the Rams or the Chiefs. The truest expressions of buttness tend to happen when one meaty cheek meets another, combining to form one giant Voltron ass with a stink that envelopes the whole game. On Sunday the Baltimore Ravens met a perfect partner in assness in the form of the Cleveland Browns, but at the end of the day only one team can be the Ass Team of the Week, and that team is the Ravens.
The Browns came out ahead, 12-9, on an overtime field goal that looked like it was thrown by Nathan Peterman. Before that, both teams spent all four quarters and nearly the entire overtime period doing what they could to give the game away, or at least guarantee that it would end it in a tie, as it deserved to.
The Ravens managed to lick a little more butt than the Browns not by committing a series of catastrophic errors, but by simply failing to do the sorts of normal, competent things good teams do when they win games. The Ravens team that handily won three of its first four games through solid defensive play and a revitalized offense that featured a nice deep connection between Joe Flacco and John Brown was nowhere to be found. The team that showed up on Sunday couldn’t catch, couldn’t throw a deep ball, and couldn’t convert easy third downs.
The failures on third down were the story of the game. The Ravens converted four of the 16 third downs they faced, which is pretty bad, but their actual performance was even worse than those numbers suggest. They came up empty on a bunch of short third downs, particularly early in the game, killing a handful of drives that looked like they had the potential to be fruitful. In the first half alone the Ravens faceplanted on third-and-1, third-and-7, third-and-3, and two separate third-and-5s. Club-sandwiched between all those murdered drives was one in which they managed to avoid third down entirely and get the ball to the Browns’ two-yard line. That drive ended like this:
The nice thing about playing the Browns is that you can get away with plenty of pants-shitting and still come out on top. The Browns are definitely not as awful as they were last year, but they still have a rookie at quarterback and Hue Jackson’s soft baby brain running things. These shortcomings would have been enough to gift a win to the Ravens if not for one drive at the end of the first half, during which Baltimore allowed themselves to be two-minute drilled by Baker Mayfield. It was a legit two-minute drill, too! The Browns started the drive at their own 22, and needed only six plays to score, the last of which was a 19-yard strike from Mayfield to a wide-open Rashard Higgins.
The Ravens, somehow, were never able to bounce back from that. The defense played fine, limiting Mayfield and the Browns to just three more second-half points, but the offense couldn’t do shit. What this led to was an entire half and overtime period of anti-football. See how long you can look at this before blood fills your eyes:
Of all football atrocities the Ravens committed over that period of time, perhaps none was worse than bringing joy to Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, one of the biggest pieces of shit still patrolling an NFL sideline. Look at how happy he was after Cleveland recovered a fumble on Baltimore’s first drive of the second half:
You wouldn’t believe how many wonderful opportunities to win this game presented themselves to the Ravens. Late in the fourth quarter, down 9-6, Flacco led the Ravens on a drive that reached the Browns’ 30-yard line by the two-minute warning. A minute later, he had them set up with a fresh set of downs at the Cleveland 14. What followed were two incomplete passes, and then Michael Crabtree, who was useless all day, dropping what would have surely been the game-winning touchdown:
The Ravens had to settle for a field goal and force overtime, and were still rewarded with even more chances to escape with a win. The Browns’ first drive in overtime stalled out and ended with a punt; the Ravens responded with a 38-yard drive and a punt of their own; the Browns came back and went 47 yards down the field before turning the ball over on downs; everyone in the stadium considered mass suicide; the Ravens found themselves at their own 39 line with 3:22 to play. All they needed to do was move the ball, like, 20 yards down the field and set up for the game-winning field goal. What they did instead was throw three dog-shit passes and punt the ball back to the Browns while taking just 25 seconds off the clock. The Browns finally, mercifully, went 65 yards and kicked an ugly, knuckling field goal that won the game at the buzzer.
This was the first game the Browns have won on a Sunday since December of 2015; they had lost 36 straight Sunday games before that. Breaking a streak of futility such as that takes a herculean effort, but not necessarily from the winning team. Sometimes all you need is for your opponent to fit more shit in their mouths than you yourself can manage.