The Browns and Cowboys each went into halftime feeling pretty comfortable about their position against their opponents. They even went to the fourth feeling like a win was forthcoming.
However, both teams found unique ways to make the games close, with both the Ravens and Washington coming back on their division foes on Sunday despite each having their backup QBs in the games. The Ravens scored late and recovered an onside kick, forcing the Browns’ defense to step up and hold off a late drive with game-winning potential. Washington had a pick-six then forced a punt to take over possession with a chance to drive down and tie the game. Only a late fumble helped ensure Dallas would leave FedEx Field with a win.
How did these two teams survive scares? And how did these matchups get close? Sporting News breaks it down.
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Browns’ defense comes up clutch
Cleveland scored 17 unanswered points to start the game. Before the Ravens were able to get on the board, star quarterback Lamar Jackson was carted off the field with an ankle injury, and later ruled out for the game.
The Ravens added two field goals before the half, but the Browns scored another touchdown to head to the locker rooms up 24-6. No Jackson. Huge lead in Cleveland. Seems safe, right? Wrong.
Tyler Huntley began to show some prowess in the second half. The Ravens kicked a field goal in the third, and the defense kept Cleveland off the board. On Baltimore’s first drive of the fourth quarter, he took them 69 yards down the field on seven plays to score a touchdown, capped off by a 1-yard rush from Latavius Murray. The two-point attempt failed, bringing the score to 24-15.
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The teams alternated three-and-outs, giving Baltimore the ball back at its own 10 with 5:25 left. Huntley again drove the Ravens down the field, this time moving 90 yards on 14 plays ending with a touchdown to tight end Mark Andrews. The PAT made it 24-22 with 1:17 left.
Still, the Ravens had just two timeouts left. They needed to recover the onside kick to have any chance. Justin Tucker rolled the kick out toward Cleveland, and it deflected off Browns fullback Andy Janovich and right back to the Baltimore 41, where Baltimore safety Chuck Clark pounced on it to recover the kick.
Huntley’s first pass attempt was incomplete. On the next play, he started to scramble out of the pocket to look for an open receiver down field, but defensive end Jadeveon Clowney pounced on him for a 10-yard sack to bring the ball back to the 31. Huntley picked up 14 yards on a pass to Andrews to bring up a 4th-and-6 from the Baltimore 45 with a minute left and no timeouts.
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On the play, Huntley dumped a short pass down to Rashod Bateman, who made a huge play on 4th-and-6 on the previous scoring drive, but Browns cornerback Denzel Ward was there right away to tackle Bateman short and turn the ball over on downs.
The Browns hung on for the win, moving to 7-6 to pull within a game of the Ravens (8-5) in the AFC North hunt, but even on that final play, there was a chance the Ravens could have won it. Andrews had run a seam route up the middle, and had broken free and found himself in field goal range, but Huntley didn’t look his direction, and the Browns capitalized on the short pass.
Cowboys recover fumble to hold on
The Cowboys saw the Browns nearly blow a 24-6 lead at halftime and said, “Hold my beer.”
Dallas rolled over Washington in the first half, heading into the locker rooms up 24-0 at the half. Washington scored a touchdown on a 43-yard pass in the third quarter, but quarterback Taylor Heinicke was injured in the fourth quarter and did not return, the second major injury of the game after star wide receiver Terry McLaurin was ruled out for the game earlier in the afternoon.
Kyle Allen came out to replace Heinicke, and on his second drive, he took the Cowboys down the field 73 yards on 13 plays, ending with a touchdown rush by Jonathan Williams to make it a 27-14 game with 5:09 left. The 2-point conversion attempt was no good.
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It didn’t take long for Washington to make it a one-score game, however. The Cowboys rushed on the first down play, but instead of trying to run the clock out on the second drive attempt, Dak Prescott rolled out on a play-action and fired off a pass. Bad decisioin. The ball was sent right to linebacker Cole Holcomb, who picked the pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. The point-after try was blocked, but all of a sudden, Dallas was getting the ball back leading just 27-20 with 4:13 left in the game.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the Cowboys nearly gave the ball right back. Corey Clement muffed the kickoff, but recovered the ball at the Dallas 10-yard line and moved it up three yards on the return. Dallas rushed the ball twice to try and run out the clock before Prescott attempted a pass on 3rd-and-3 to try and pick up the first down. The ball was incomplete, and the Cowboys had to punt the ball away. The punt started Washington at its own 30-yard line with 3:16 left in the game.
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Allen threw a short pass to Cam Sims for a gain of seven, and then fired a deep ball down the right sideline to DeAndre Carter. The ball slipped right through the fingers of Carter. Had he made the grab, it would have been a gain of 33, and would have spotted Washington at the Dallas 30-yard line with less than three minutes remaining.
Instead, on the next play, Allen was chased out of the pocket and while attempting to throw the ball to a receiver, fumbled it as he was going down. After a review, the ruling on the field stood, with officials deciding there wasn’t enough evidence to say that either Allen’s knee was down or that he was attempting a pass.
Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a yard, CeeDee Lamb rushed for five and Prescott rushed for five more, taking the clock to the two-minute warning and using up all of Washington’s timeouts. Prescott took three knees after the warning to end the game, putting Dallas up to a 9-4 record and dropping Washington to 6-7.