Wide receiver Greg Little #15 of the Cleveland Browns drops the pass in the fourth quarter against cornerback Lardarius Webb #21 of the Baltimore Ravens during the NFL Game at M&T Bank Stadium on September 27, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.
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CLEVELAND - A touchdown and extra point from a lead, the Browns were hanging tough with the perennial division powerhouse Ravens. Then a rookie to rookie connection went wrong and that changed real quickly.
Brandon Weeden stared down Travis Benjamin from the second the ball was snapped on the 3rd and 5. Cornerback Cary Williams jumped the route with little fight from Benjamin, pulled in the pass, then darted 63 yards the other way.
In a few seconds, a one possession game that was well within reach turned into a gut-punching 13-point deficit heading to the fourth quarter.
The Browns showed signs of life but came up short again in the 23-16 loss to the Ravens.
Brandon Weeden fought through his first test against the brutal Ravens defense, showing moxie much of the time despite a 59.8 QB rating. Trent Richardson again looked like a player with a heck of a future.
The defense was nothing like the one that looked befuddled the past two weeks.
Joe Flacco was sacked four times. Ray Rice was relatively contained, held under 100 total yards.
With a botched extra point, missed field goal and plenty of penalties, the Ravens provided openings too.
But just about anytime the Browns did something right or got a break, they countered with a much bigger wrong. This is how that played out in the fourth quarter:
Down 10, clinging to life with just more than six minutes remaining, Travis Benjamin breathes life into the comeback effort with a punt return into Baltimore territory.
An intentional grounding and unsportsmanlike conduct that turn 1st and 10 into 2nd and 36. Then on a beautifully thrown 3rd and 14 Weeden pass, another Greg Little drop, in the end zone.
Little’s struggles and antics have moved past the cringe worthy stage. They’ve reached damaging your nice TV with a flying object level.
The second-year receiver is maddeningly volatile, an excellent catch on one drive then the biggest drop of the night a few later. Little dropped three more passes along with the potential touchdown. Head coach Pat Shurmur talking with Little didn’t seem to fix the problem.
Back to good morphing to bad - it only intensifies as the fourth quarter continues.
On a third down with just more than three minutes left and down a touchdown, the Browns defense gets a stop and should get the ball back.
Hold on though.
Buster Skrine pulls down Ravens receiver Tandon Doss on the other side of the field from the incomplete pass - holding, five yards, automatic Ravens first down. Time ticks away on the Browns’ comeback hopes.
Still though, the Browns get another, this time final, chance with 1:05 on the clock. Brandon Weeden leads an impressive drive, eluding pressure and finding receivers.
He gets the offense in position for a fourth down heave to the end zone from the Baltimore 33. It's eerily similar to Monday night’s controversial "touchdown," same spot of the end zone, but knocked down. Turnover on downs. Game over - or not.
Paul Kruger’s silly personal foul on Joe Thomas allows one more shot at tying the game. Another chance served up by the Ravens. They really did do all they could to help.
But just as it went all night, the Browns did not have the killer instinct.
On the game’s last play, from the Baltimore 18, Weeden airmailed a throw intended for Greg Little out of the end zone.
No drop this time, just no chance.
One step forward, two steps back. Four tally marks in the loss column.
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