Joe Cool: Joe Flacco keeps composure down stretch, QB rallies Ravens to 23-21 win over Browns

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CLEVELAND — As the game got tighter and time started slipping away from the Ravens, quarterback Joe Flacco only got calmer.

He's always that way against Cleveland.

"We call him, 'Joe Cool,'" said wide receiver Steve Smith.

On Sunday, Flacco lived up to his nickname once again.

Flacco completed a 32-yard pass to Smith in the final two minutes to set up a 32-yard field goal by Justin Tucker on the game's final play, rallying Baltimore to a 23-21 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Getting the ball back at midfield with 1:58 left and the Ravens "staring 1-2 in the face," as he described his team's predicament, Flacco dropped a perfectly thrown pass to Smith, who got behind Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. After Flacco ran the clock down to 4 seconds, Tucker split the uprights as time expired to give the Ravens, who can't seem to spin away from the Ray Rice scandal, their second straight win over an AFC North opponent.

Flacco improved to 12-1 against the Browns (1-2), who blew several chances to put the Ravens away and will spend their bye week stewing over countless mistakes.

Cleveland couldn't finish the job, so Flacco did.

"When you're in the moment, it's tough not to be calm," Flacco said. "You just react and you're playing. Everything happens so quick out there you just keep playing. That's at least my experience with it so it's kind of tough not to be calm and play."

The Ravens haven't let the lingering questions about their handling of Rice's arrest and suspension for domestic violence affect them. At least not on the field.

"There's always going to be in life, challenges and attacks and consequences and all those kinds of things that we'll talk about I'm sure probably this week and ongoing forever," coach John Harbaugh said. "You just gotta stand up, be accountable and be who you are and try to stand for the right things.

"And our guys do that."

The Browns missed an opportunity to enter the bye with a winning record, and have only themselves to blame. They botched two field goals — one was missed, the other blocked by Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson— in the fourth quarter, committed 12 penalties and completely unraveled on offense in the closing minutes.

"It's going to be a long two weeks," said quarterback Brian Hoyer, who went 19 of 25 for 290 yards and a touchdown. "I know we're going to watch this film and be mad at ourselves. We had some opportunities to put this game away and we didn't do it. It's on us."

Here are some things we learned as the Ravens continued their mastery over the Browns:

PITTA'S INJURY: Baltimore's win was tempered as dependable tight end Dennis Pitta sustained a potentially serious right hip injury in the first half.

Pitta was taken off the field on a stretcher and to University Hospital after going down without being hit. Pitta played in just four games last season after dislocating and fracturing the same hip. There's a chance he could be lost for the season again.

JOHNNY WIDEOUT: The Browns fooled Baltimore's defense in the second quarter, when rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel stopped short of leaving the field and pretended to be having a conversation with the sideline before taking off down field and catching a pass from Hoyer for a 32-yard gain.

However, Manziel's big play was wiped out by an illegal shift penalty.

RICE FALLOUT: Harbaugh ended his postgame news conference by denying a report that he and Ravens officials were divided over how to handle Rice's situation.

ESPN reported that Harbaugh wanted Rice to be released and was overruled by team officials, including general manager Ozzie Newsome.

"Every single football decision we make, we work together," Harbaugh said. "That decision was exactly like all the other ones. When we walked out of that room, we were united. We stand shoulder to shoulder. I felt it was the right decision. I thought we did the right thing, and I stand behind it."

TICK, TOCK: Cleveland's three games have all been decided by a last-second field goal.

The Browns rallied from a 24-point deficit before losing 30-27 at Pittsburgh in Week 1 and beat New Orleans 26-24 last week before falling to the Ravens.

"That's the NFL," Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said. "You've got to make more plays at the end of the game, when it counts, than your opponent. The Ravens made one more play than we did."

REPLACEMENT RAVEN: Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro began the season as Baltimore's No. 4, but Rice's suspension and injuries moved him up the depth chart and he responded.

A fourth-round pick from Coastal Carolina, Taliaferro gained 91 yards on 18 carries and scored a TD. He was pressed into service when starter Bernard Pierce was inactive because of a thigh injury.

"He was downhill running, physical and was hard to tackle," Harbaugh said. "That is an element that is a big plus for an offense."


Online: AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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