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Cleveland 24, Baltimore 14

Oct. 21, 2001 at 9:00 PM   |   Comments

CLEVELAND, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Tim Couch threw for a pair of touchdowns Sunday and the Cleveland defense collected seven sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery to give the Browns their first win ever over the Baltimore Ravens, 24-14.

Art Modell, who moved the Browns' storied franchise to Baltimore five years ago, was not in attendance to witness the latest defeat for his suddenly struggling Super Bowl champions.

The Ravens had won the four previous meetings from Cleveland, the last three by a combined score of 97-16. But Baltimore fell to 3-3 while the surprising Browns (4-2) moved into sole possession of second place in the AFC Central under rookie coach Butch Davis.

"Our guys did this on heart and guts," Davis said. "They were committed to coming in here and winning this football game. This was a game we expected to win. We didn't practice all week like we are a gigantic underdog."

Couch hit wide receiver Kevin Johnson with a 28-yard touchdown to cap a nine-play, 80-yard drive and give the Browns a 17-6 advantage midway through the third quarter.

Defensive end Greg Spires highlighted his active day by recovering a fumble by Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac at the Baltimore 36 when Grbac was sacked by linebacker Jamir Miller.

"We played well, but we didn't play flawless," said Miller, who entered Sunday tied for second on the AFC sack leaders' list. "If we had played flawless, we would have held then to six points. It was just a great victory for us."

On the play after the fumble, Couch found rookie receiver Quincy Morgan in the end zone to open an 18-point cushion.

Enjoying solid protection from his offensive line, Couch had time to complete 11 of 18 passes for 149 yards with no interceptions. The third-year quarterback's performance came a week after the Ravens' daunting defense was humbled by three-time Most Valuable Player Brett Favre in a road loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"I heard it all week that the Packers won the game because of Brett Favre," Couch said. "We played a great game against one of the best teams. I may not be Brett Favre yet, but I can go out and make plays in this league."

Cleveland rookie James Jackson gained 77 yards on 24 carries, including the opening touchdown, against Baltimore's top-ranked run defense.

"We've dealt with (consecutive losses) before. Now, we're going to deal with it now," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, whose team lost three straight a year ago before winning 11 in a row en route to Super Bowl XXXV. "We are going to have to deal with all things that come with losing. We are going to have to deal with the intensity."

Veteran quarterback Randall Cunningham entered the game in relief of a roughed-up Grbac, who had x-rays taken following a blow to the chest. Those x-rays were negative. Grbac sustained a mild concussion last week at Green Bay.

The 16-year veteran hit Qadry Ismail for a 22-yard touchdown strike and found the receiver on the two-point conversion to move the Ravens within 24-14. Cunningham also directed touchdown drives of 71 and 60 yards in relief of Grbac a week ago.

Well-known for their intimidating and hard-hitting style, the Ravens failed to rattle the young Browns. In the third quarter, Kyle Richardson booted a 45-yard punt for the Ravens. As soon as second-year returner Dennis Northcutt caught it on the Cleveland 20, he was flattened by a crunching tackle by cornerback James Trapp.

But after Northcutt was helped from the field, the Browns seemed to be the inspired team as the Couch-led offense drove for their second touchdown of the game.

"Beating the Ravens feels good," Couch said. "We lost the game we should have won last week (against Cincinnati) and to bounce back and beat such a great football team is definitely a great feeling."

Benjamin Gay ignited the Browns at the start, returning the opening kickoff 42 yards to the Cleveland 49. Couch completed all three passes in driving the Browns to the Baltimore 11.

Jackson ran around right end and, after center Dave Wohlabaugh cut down All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, found a clear path for an 11-yard dash to the end zone.

"I saw my lineman block to the outside, I saw a gap up the middle and just turned it loose," Jackson said. "That was our game plan -- stay away from the big guys in the middle and attack the outside."

After just three carries on the Ravens' opening drive, veteran running back Terry Allen left the game with a pulled calf muscle. Despite the setback, Baltimore still managed to outrush Cleveland, 113-88. But Baltimore was forced to abandon the running game as they endeavored to mount a fourth-quarter comeback.

"We could not stay with our game plan and we had to start throwing the ball down field a lot more and could only get in a few running plays," said fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo, who led the Ravens with 48 yards rushing.

Ayanbadejo converted a third and two situation with a 15-yard run up the middle. That helped put Matt Stover in position to set an NFL record by kicking a field goal for the 32nd straight game. His 21-yard effort split the uprights and cut the score to 7-3 with 5:11 left in the first half.

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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