BALTIMORE — D'Qwell Jackson must feel as though he's stuck in a never-ending film loop, one in which the Cleveland Browns make the same mistakes over and over until the final whistle signals the end of yet another defeat.
Such was the case Saturday, when the Browns bungled their way to a 20-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
"We've been in some close ones, and today told the story of the season," Jackson said. "We fought for three quarters, the offense was able to move the ball, we put the ball in the end zone, and we still had a chance at the end."
That's when Cleveland (4-11) made its most glaring error.
Down 20-14 with no timeouts left, 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 Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco was merely hoping to draw the Browns offside. And right on cue, Cleveland rookie tackle Phil Taylor jumped across the line of scrimmage to give Baltimore a first down.
The Ravens (11-4) then ran out the clock on their eighth straight win over the Browns, including two this month.
"We jumped offside and we didn't give ourselves a chance," Jackson said. "It's hard to do."
As soon as the flag dropped to the ground, Jackson grabbed the rookie to offer him some advice.
"He said, 'Hold your head up.' It's tough," Taylor said softly in a sullen locker room. "It was the first hard count and we stayed onside. The second time, I just jumped. Of course you feel bad, but you just got to move on."
Taylor wasn't the only one with a mistake to lament. Jackson got torched on a touchdown pass from Flacco to Ray Rice. The Browns had to use their first-half timeouts early because of personnel issues. And quarterback Seneca Wallace, after driving Cleveland to the Baltimore 3-yard line, curiously called a running play instead of spiking the ball as time expired in the second quarter.
"It seems that it's the 15th time I've said this, (but) the guys played extremely hard," Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said. "I told the guys for us to win these close games here in the AFC North, we've got to play a little smarter in some of the critical situations and that will help make the difference. That's where we're at."
Flacco threw two touchdown passes and Rice ran for 87 yards to help the Ravens finish 8-0 at home.
Josh Cribbs had a career-high 84-yard punt return for a TD for Cleveland. Wallace went 19 for 33 for 147 yards in place of Colt McCoy, who was out with a concussion. Peyton Hillis ran for 112 yards, but Cleveland's offense mounted only one decent drive.
The Browns took the opening kickoff and moved from their own 26 to the Baltimore 30 behind the power of Hillis, who gained 30 yards on six carries. But on a third-and-1, Cleveland inexplicably went to the air, and Lardarius Webb intercepted Wallace's pass for Mohamed Massaquoi.
Flacco immediately threw deep for Torrey Smith, who drew a 60-yard penalty for pass interference on Mike Adams to set up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson.
Later, a 29-yard throw from Flacco to Smith led to a 48-yard field goal by Shayne Graham.
After another Cleveland punt, Flacco directed an 82-yard drive that gave Baltimore a 17-0 lead. Rice slipped behind Jackson on the right sideline, caught a soft pass in stride and sprinted into the end zone to complete a 42-yard scoring play.
That made Flacco 5 for 5 for 94 yards and two touchdowns on third down.
Cleveland moved deep into Baltimore territory late in the first half, thanks in part to a 30-yard pass interference call against Chris Carr. But with the clock inside 10 seconds and the Browns without a timeout, Wallace handed off to Hillis instead of spiking the ball, and Hillis went nowhere.
Wallace took the blame, and so did Shurmur.
"I need to communicate it better, OK?" Shurmur said.
Time expired before Cleveland could get off another play, and the Browns headed to the locker room after being held scoreless in the first half for the second time this season. The other time it happened was also against Baltimore.
Graham kicked a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter to make it 20-0.
The Browns finally scored when Cribbs took a punt on the right sideline, escaped an arm tackle and broke toward the center of the field before outrunning three defenders into the left corner of the end zone late in the third quarter.
"I was wondering where all the defenders were," Cribbs said. "I saw all the great blocking around me. From there, it was easy. It was just a walk in."
Cribbs also contributed to Cleveland's next touchdown, catching a 23-yard pass from Wallace as part of an 80-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard TD throw to Evan Moore midway through the fourth quarter.Comment on this story
The Browns forced a punt, but on a fourth-and-4 from the Cleveland 45 with 4:03 left, a pass to Hillis did not produce the necessary yardage.
Taylor's jump across the line of scrimmage soon followed.
NOTES: Ravens KR David Reed hurt his left knee and declared himself out for the season. Also, Baltimore OT Marshal Yanda (chest) and CB Cary Williams (concussion) did not play in the second half. ... Shurmur said the Browns sustained no serious injuries. Cleveland closes the season next Sunday against Pittsburgh.