BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams took a gamble.
He recognized the formation the Cleveland Browns were in on third-and-5 from the Baltimore 43-yard line with just over 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter. When he saw Browns receiver Travis Benjamin go in motion, he had a feeling what would happen next.
He didn’t know for sure, but it was a risk Williams felt was worth taking. Once Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden looked Benjamin’s way for an out route, Williams jumped it and intercepted the pass, taking it 63 yards the other way for a Baltimore touchdown.
“It was a surreal feeling,” Williams said. “When I had it in my hands, it just felt like I didn’t have it, you know what I mean? I just was thinking, ‘Don’t fumble this ball,’ because it was wet. Once I got in the end zone, I just gave God the praise.”
The interception gave the Ravens a 23-10 lead, which would later turn into a 23-16 win.
The interception was the first of Williams’ career, which has included 22 starts dating back to the beginning of last season, counting the 2011 playoffs.
The Ravens (3-1) needed the interception to give them some breathing room because the Browns wouldn’t back down.
Thanks to two Phil Dawson field goals, from 50 and 52 yards away, Cleveland (0-4) was able to trim the lead to 23-16 with 4:38 remaining. Dawson also made a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter.
“All I want is an opportunity,” Dawson said. “I’ve spent countless hours working out and getting stronger. It has helped me stay in this league and perform at a high level.”
The Ravens were able to run off 3:28 on its final offensive possession, but they were forced to punt with 1:13 remaining. Weeden, a 28-year-old rookie out of Oklahoma State, then drove the Browns to the Ravens 33-yard line. A fourth down Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete, but an unnecessary roughness penalty on linebacker Paul Kruger gave the Browns one more play with two seconds left from the Baltimore 18-yard line.
Weeden had one final attempt to send the game to overtime, but his pass sailed out of the end zone.
Even though the regular referees were back in action, Kruger didn’t agree with the penalty he was assessed.
“I was getting held pretty bad and threw my hands at him to get him off me,” Kruger said. “And he flopped pretty bad.”
Weeden started slowly but finished the game 25-for-52 for 320 yards and an interception.
“He battled,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “As I watched the game, watching it from where you all saw it, I thought he made some good throws in there. He took some good shots and made some throws. I think he made progress as a player tonight. When you really make progress is when you lead your team to victory.”
The Ravens held a 9-7 advantage over Cleveland at halftime and began their first drive of the third quarter at their own 11-yard line.
Quarterback Joe Flacco led the Ravens down to the Browns’ 1-yard line, with three receptions going to receiver Anquan Boldin for 60 yards. On third-and-goal at the 1, Flacco faked a run to Ray Rice and rolled to his right. His intended target was tight end Dennis Pitta, who was covered. Flacco, facing Browns linebacker Scott Fujita in the flat, juked the defender and stepped into the end zone for a touchdown, putting the Ravens up 16-7.
“I’m really looking to run it first, that’s the design, but I honestly was trying to get the touchdown pass,” Flacco said. “I bled it out as long as I could. When I came around the corner, I kind of said to myself, ‘OK, I have the run here, but let’s see if Dennis comes wide open,’ and he worked for me a little bit and then just nothing happened. So I said, ‘OK, I have to get a touchdown run instead.’”
Flacco finished the game 28-for-46 for 356 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Boldin led the Ravens in receiving with nine catches for 131 yards.
“We faced a good offensive football team,” Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown said. “For the most part, we stopped the ball vertically down the field. When we needed to make some stops, we came up with them. Unfortunately, we came up a little short.”
NOTES: Flacco threw an interception in the first quarter from Cleveland’s 10-yard line. It was the first time in 125 red-zone passes that Flacco threw an interception. His last red-zone interception came in December 2009 against Green Bay. … Browns receiver Joshua Cribbs sustained a head injury during a first-quarter punt return and did not return. Cleveland safety T.J. Ward (right hand), safety Tashaun Gipson (knee) and defensive back Usama Young (knee) also sustained injuries. … Ravens receiver Torrey Smith limped off the field in the fourth quarter but said he was all right. He would not disclose his injury. … The Ravens held a ceremony at halftime inducting former running back Jamal Lewis into the franchise’s Ring of Honor.