Joe Flacco leads Ravens to win over Browns; now a win away from division title

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BALTIMORE — Eight games, eight wins. The Baltimore Ravens achieved perfection at home for the first time, and now they’re looking to add to that ledger in the playoffs.

Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes, and the Ravens beat the bumbling Cleveland Browns 20-14 on Saturday to move one step closer to winning the AFC North.

Ray Rice ran for 87 yards and caught a TD pass for the Ravens (11-4), who led 17-0 at halftime and held on.

“I have never been perfect at home in 16 years of football. That’s amazing,” Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis said. “As good of teams we’ve had here, we’ve always found (a way) to lose one or two here or there. I think this year we really made a focus on taking care at home. This is the result, us being able to go 8-0 and being able to be sitting where you want to sit at the end of the day.”

The Ravens would win the AFC North by defeating Cincinnati on the road next week. That would also give Baltimore a first-round bye and a home playoff game — two if New England loses next Sunday at home against Buffalo.

“It’s big, man,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We are at our best when we are at (home) and our fans are rocking. So we definitely need a home playoff game, by any means necessary.”

Flacco went 11 for 24 with touchdown passes to Rice and tight end Ed Dickson. He also had a 33-yard run.

Josh Cribbs had a career-high 84-yard punt return for a TD for Cleveland (4-11). But the Browns generated very little offense and were guilty of questionable play calling, bad clock management and untimely penalties in their fifth straight loss.

Cleveland saved the worst for last. Having already burned their three timeouts, the Browns lined up on defense after the two-minute warning with the Ravens facing a fourth-and-2 at the Cleveland 37.

It appeared obvious that Flacco and the Ravens were merely hoping to draw the Browns offside.

As the play clock moved close to zero, Cleveland tackle Phil Taylor jumped across the line of scrimmage to give Baltimore a first down.

“It was the first hard count and we stayed onside,” Taylor said. “The second time, I just jumped. Of course you feel bad, but you just got to move on.”

Said Flacco: “I don’t know if I’ve ever been in position for that to happen. It’s never worked.”

The Ravens then ran out the clock on their eighth straight win over the Browns, including two this month.

“We knew this would be quite a challenge for us,” Cleveland quarterback Seneca Wallace said. “We’re playing the Ravens at home, and they’re playing for everything. I should have played better, and I should have made better decisions.”

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