Pettine praises team despite loss to Ravens in finale
BALTIMORE (AP) — The Cleveland Browns put forth quite an effort against a team headed to the playoffs. The last thing coach Mike Pettine wanted to talk about was a bunch of guys who didn’t suit up.
So, after Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Pettine deflected all questions about the suspension of wide receiver Josh Gordon; the antics of injured rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel; and a report that cornerback Justin Gilbert was on the inactive list because he was late for a team meeting.
“I’m not going to address those guys,” Pettine said. “I know 90 percent of the questions are going to be about that. To me, it’s disrespectful to the guys who put the uniforms on today and played their hearts out for the Cleveland Browns.
“We have guys we should be celebrating. … There were guys who didn’t need to be out there and play, who could have shut it down and didn’t.”
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said that Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer “absolutely” will return next season.
The Browns came in with four straight losses and were starting a quarterback making his NFL debut. They had lost 12 of their previous 13 games against the Ravens, too, but it was hard to tell by the way Cleveland took it to Baltimore for three quarters.
It took a 17-point fourth quarter for the Ravens to rally to a victory that got them in the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years. That, and San Diego’s loss to Kansas City.
“Certainly a disappointing way to finish,” Pettine said. “We had our chances. I thought we executed our plan well for three quarters and just couldn’t finish. In a lot of ways, it was a microcosm of our season.”
With quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel out with injuries, Shaw went 14 for 28 for 177 yards. He lost a fumble, threw an interception and was sacked four times.
But his teammates appreciated the effort from a player who spent much of the season on the Cleveland practice squad.
“He’s taken more reps at safety this season than he has in our offense,” Cleveland defensive back Jim Leonhard said. “It wasn’t too big (a task) for him. He came out against a team that needed a win to get into the playoffs and was calm, collected.”
Said Shaw: “I knew being a rookie quarterback (making his) first start they were going to bring some heat. I thought for the most part we handled it well.”
The Ravens trailed 10-3 in the fourth quarter. A field goal narrowed the gap, and Baltimore took the lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith with 7:33 left.
Flacco’s 2-yard TD throw to Kamar Aiken with 3:44 remaining clinched it.
“Today it was struggle, struggle, struggle,” said Flacco, who went 8 for 9 for 161 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He finished 22 for 36 for 312 yards, and the two TD passes gave him a career-high 27 for the season.
“Anything can happen when you get into the playoffs,” he said. “I won’t be surprised if in three weeks from now we’re still sitting here playing.”
For three quarters, the Ravens stumbled offensively — just as they did one week earlier in a 25-13 loss in Houston. As the game wore on, the home fans showed their dissatisfaction by booing before yet another Baltimore punt.
“These guys want to be sitting on the couch, having parties and cheering for us in a week,” Flacco said.
Justin Forsett had 119 yards rushing for the Ravens, who will open on the road next weekend.
The Browns took a 10-3 lead in the third quarter when Shaw went 3 for 3 during an 80-yard drive. Shaw scrambled in the pocket before connecting on a 49-yard completion to rookie Taylor Gabriel, who started in place of Gordon. That was followed by a 2-yard touchdown run by Terrance West.
Baltimore closed to 10-6 with 10:37 left when Justin Tucker kicked a 28-yard field goal after a 39-yard completion from Flacco to tight end Owen Daniels.
Cleveland followed with three straight runs and a punt, giving the Ravens the ball again with 8:23 to go.
Flacco completed a 53-yarder to Smith before hitting the wide receiver on the next play for the go-ahead score.
West ran for 94 yards and Shaw went 14 for 28 for 177 yards.
Notes: Baltimore played without left tackle Eugene Monroe (ankle). … Ravens DT Timmy Jernigan left with a foot injury. … Browns LB Chris Kirksey left with a hamstring injury.
Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP—NFL
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