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Ravens outslug Browns 25-15 in AFC North tussle

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Ravens outslug Browns 25-15 in AFC North tussle

CLEVELAND (AP) When the pushing, shoving, finger pointing and customary taunting ended, and after his team rallied to pull out a difficult division win, Baltimore coach Jim Harbaugh was exhausted and relieved.

``Whew, he said. ``That was a fight.''

One the Ravens usually win.

Regrouping in the fourth quarter after failing to gain a single yard in the third, the Ravens got a 19-yard go-ahead touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith with 4:26 to play Sunday and Baltimore's defense shut down Cleveland in the closing minutes for a 25-15 victory over the Browns.

It was Baltimore's 10th straight win over their division rival, and the Ravens' 11th consecutive victory inside one of the NFL's toughest divisions.

The Ravens (6-2) blew a 14-point lead, fell behind by one point in the fourth and finally made enough plays down the stretch to put away the Browns (2-7), who were unable to score a touchdown despite five trips inside Baltimore's 20-yard line and came up short again.

``That's been the tale of the season so far,'' said linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. ``We get so close, and for whatever reason when the game's on the line, whether it's defensively or offensively, we can't seem to make that play.''

Smith caught Flacco's strike and spun away from cornerback Joe Haden as the Ravens, who were throttled by 30 points at Houston two weeks ago, improved to 5-0 after a bye week under Harbaugh, now 10-0 against Cleveland since 2008.

After scoring TDs on runs by Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce on their first two possessions, the Ravens looked as if they might have an easy afternoon. But Cleveland's defense shut Baltimore down and Phil Dawson's fifth field goal, a 41-yarder with 8:48 left, gave the Browns a 15-14 lead.

The Ravens were in trouble. Flacco rescued them.

``Joe never blinked,'' Rice said.

Baltimore went six straight possessions without a first down when Flacco finally ended the drought by completing a 21-yard pass to Anquan Boldin on second-and-10 from Cleveland's 19.

``You need a play to get yourself going,'' Flacco said of his throw to Boldin. ``That was a good one.''

Two plays later, the Ravens caught a break when Browns safety T.J. Ward was called for roughing Flacco on a second-down blitz. Ward contested he did not hit Flacco in the head as the officials ruled.

``My chest hit him in the shoulder,'' Ward said. ``My arm hit him in the back shoulder. I didn't touch his head or anything.''

After Rice moved the ball closer to the end zone with two 10-yard runs, Flacco fired a slant pass on third-and-10 to Smith, who wheeled away from a flat-footed Haden and sprinted into the end zone to make it 20-15. The Ravens then converted the 2-point try with Flacco hitting a wide-open Boldin to extend the lead to seven.

Cleveland had plenty of time left and two timeouts to mount a comeback. But facing a fourth-and-2 at his own 28, Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who chose to punt two weeks ago at Indianapolis in similar circumstances, decided to go for it with 3:53 remaining.

However, rookie Brandon Weeden's pass for Greg Little was incomplete and the Ravens took over.

``I felt like we had a play that we liked and we didn't execute it,'' Shurmur said, who got defensive when pressed on his decision. ``Had we converted and moved forward, then it would have been talked about on what a gutsy move it was, right?

Baltimore's Justin Tucker kicked a 43-yard field goal to put the Ravens up by 10.

The Browns' last chance ended when safety Ed Reed intercepted Weeden, who went 20 of 37 for 176 yards and two interceptions in an up-and-down performance for the 29-year-old.

Weeden's best throw of the game was called back.

With the Browns trailing 14-12, Weeden drilled an apparent 18-yard TD pass to rookie Josh Gordon, but the play was nullified by an illegal formation penalty because running back Chris Ogbonnaya didn't line up far enough off the line of scrimmage.

``It's frustrating,'' said running back Trent Richardson, who gained 105 yards. ``But we can't point fingers. We all have to be accountable for what we do. I've got to run harder. We gotta make better calls. We have to make sure we pick up blocks and catch the ball, and we have to do the right things.

``Once you're in the red zone, you gotta score some kind of way. You've got to get in the end zone.''

Flacco finished 15 of 24 for 153 yards. He completed his first 10 passes, but Cleveland's defense shut him and the Ravens down for most of the second half until the final TD drive.

``We started fast and finished strong,'' Harbaugh said. ``In the middle, it was a little iffy there. But the thing I was proud of, our guys played with faith in one another. When the offense was struggling, the defense wasn't. When the defense struggled, the offense wasn't.

``We came together at the end to win.''

The Browns gave it all they had, but it wasn't enough. They'll have to wait until next year for another shot at the Ravens, who at times turned the game into a street fight.

``They're a nasty team,'' Ward said. ``That's just how they play, and I think they get away with a lot on that side of the ball.''

And is usually the case, the Ravens got away with a win.

NOTES: Baltimore has won 15 straight after a loss. ... Richardson is the first rookie to run for more than 100 yards against the Ravens since Jacksonville's Fred Taylor in 1998. Following the game, he and Rice exchanged jerseys on the field. ``It felt good to trade jerseys with a beast in Trent Richardson,'' said Rice, who had 98 yards. ``There's a mutual respect on both ends.'' ... Dawson is 17 for 17 this season and has made 23 in a row since last season. The NFL record is 42, held by Colts K Mike Vanderjagt. ... Browns KR Josh Cribbs became the NFL's career leader in kickoff return yards with one team. Cribbs has 9,638 yards with Cleveland. Brian Mitchell had 9,586 with Washington.

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Harbaugh defends Kaepernick's right to protest anthem

Harbaugh defends Kaepernick's right to protest anthem

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that regardless of whether he agreed with Colin Kaepernick’s actions, he defended Kaepernick’s right not to stand for the national anthem, as the protest by the 49ers quarterback continued to draw significant attention.

“We are talking about a free country,” Harbaugh said following Monday’s practice. “I’m grateful for the right to express my displeasure, and that is what Colin chose to do. It is certainly his right to do it.”

Harbaugh’s brother, Jim Harbaugh, coached Kaepernick with the 49ers for four seasons.

“I know Colin through Jim,” Harbaugh said. “He comes from a great family. He has been brought up the right way with good people who care about him and love him. He reflects that in how successful he has been. I know Jim really likes him a lot, so I respect him. I respect his choice for whatever it is.”

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Harbaugh said if a Ravens’ player decided to take a controversial stand, he hoped the player would take great thought before doing so.

“As far as our players go, it becomes about respect,” Harbaugh said. “I think you respect the opinions of everybody in the room and respect their right to express their opinion. Voltaire (French philosopher) so eloquently stated, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend until death your right to say it.’

“That is the principle our country is founded on. I don’t think you can deny someone the right to speak out or mock or make fun or belittle anyone else’s opinion. You stand on your opinion, and when you state your opinion, it takes a little bit of courage, and there are going to be people that disagree with it. I tell our guys, ‘If you are going to say something publicly, think about it. Make sure you really believe that, because when you speak out there, it is out there, and it belongs to you now.’

“The other part of it is that we are a team. Anything that we do should never…You respect our team, our organization and the other players, and you respect the mission that were are on and what we are trying to accomplish. None of us ever want to do anything that is going to detract or disrespect the efforts of all the other players on the football team. I think that is the balance that all of us have to strike when we speak out about something like that.”

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OWINGS MILLS – The competition between John Urschel and Alex Lewis to be the Ravens’ starting left guard Week 1 remains close.

Lewis has played well the past two preseason games, while Urschel has been sidelined with an undisclosed “contusion” injury. Urschel’s return to practice could be imminent, because he was on the field post-practice Monday with offensive line coach Juan Castillo.

However, Harbaugh had praise for Lewis following Monday’s practice. The fourth-round draft pick from Nebraska has been a physical presence, and has looked comfortable playing with the starters.

“Really impressed,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, when asked to assess Lewis’ performance Saturday night against the Lions. “He made some mistakes. He was late, passed off a couple of twists and games. But he’s a quick learner.”

Does Urschel’s missed practice time make the decision on which player to start more complicated?

“That’s a great question,” Harbaugh said. “We’re probably considering that right now, but we haven’t had that discussion yet. That’s something we have to address here very quickly.”

Even if Urschel starts the season, Lewis is showing that at worst, he can be a reliable backup. The coaching staff believes Lewis will be an NFL starter one day. It remains to be seen if that day will be Week 1 against the Bills.

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OWINGS MILLS – Wide receiver Breshad Perriman could finally see his first game action with the Ravens on Thursday, during the preseason finale in New Orleans.

“If the doctors clear him, he’ll be out there,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said following Monday’s practice. “If he can play, he will play. I do want to see him playing before he gets in a regular season game. That’s something we would want to see him do if he can. But that will be up to the docs.”

Perriman has not played for the Ravens since he was a first-round pick in 2015, due to two separate knee injuries. However, Perriman was activated off the PUP list Aug. 23 and has been practicing since.

If Perriman played Thursday without any physical setbacks, it would increase the likelihood that he would dress for the regular-season opener against the Bills on Sept. 11.

Even if Perriman’s snaps were limited, he could be utilized in some packages as a downfield threat. The presence of Perriman could also open up opportunities for other receivers to work underneath.

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