BEREA — Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden will never forget his first game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 27.
In front of a national television audience on NFL Network, the rookie showed great poise in throwing for 320 yards, but ultimately cost Cleveland the game.
Baltimore cornerback Cary Williams returned a Weeden interception 63 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter, allowing the Ravens to escape with a 23-16 win at M&T Bank Stadium.
“I put the team in such a tough spot, spotting them seven points and putting ourselves in a hole,” Weeden said Wednesday. “I was doing some uncharacteristic things, missing some throws and we had some drops, but we’re not making those same mistakes anymore.
“We may have come up short, but we learned a lot from that game.”
The Browns get their chance at revenge Sunday when they host Baltimore in a 1 p.m. game. Cleveland (2-6) is coming off a 7-6 win over San Diego, while the Ravens (5-2) are returning from their bye week.
With Baltimore not playing last week, Weeden chose to revisit the teams’ first meeting by watching it on his iPad late Tuesday evening. He fast-forwarded through his poor third-down throw to Travis Benjamin, which Williams turned into the critical pick-six, but saw a lot of positives offensively.
“Game reps are irreplaceable and when you’re able to get out there and make mistakes in the heat of battle, it makes you grow up pretty quick,” said Weeden, who went 25-of-52 against the Ravens with no touchdowns, one interception and a 59.8 passer rating.
“After watching it last night, it’s very, very encouraging. We’ve come a long ways from then and we’ve still got a lot of room for improvement.”
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said Weeden’s growth over the past month has been impressive and obvious, saying, “He’s done a nice job of really incorporating himself into what they’re trying to do offensively.
“It looks like he’s really smart, he’s got a nice arm and he’s got good poise back there. One of the main things for a young guy is just not turning the ball over much, and he’s done a good job with that, so I’m very impressed with him.”
Statistically, Weeden’s season headed north immediately after losing to the Ravens.
In losing his first four NFL starts, the Oklahoma State product was 90-of-167 for 997 yards, three touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 60.4 passer rating.
In Cleveland’s last four games, Weeden has won twice while completing 75 of 132 throws for 915 yards, six scores, three picks and an 84.0 rating.
“It’s been really encouraging with Brandon because he’s giving us a chance to win, and that’s what you want from your quarterback,” Browns tackle Joe Thomas said. “He’s a kid that has really improved and played better every single week so far. Hopefully, we can continue that growth and progress because he’s come a long way already from where he was at the beginning of the season.”
Weeden appears to have a golden opportunity for another big game this week.
Franchise linebacker Ray Lewis and lead cornerback Lardarius Webb both suffered season-ending injuries Oct. 14 against Dallas, leading to Baltimore allowing 43 points one week later in a 30-point drubbing at Houston.
On the flip side, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs — the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year — made his 2012 debut against the Texans, so it’s not as if their cupboard is empty.
“Ray is the emotional and vocal leader of that defense, and Webb is a heck of a player and was playing at a very, very high level,” Weeden said. “Without them, you’ve got to take advantage.
“But with Suggs coming back, it’s a big boost to them vocally, mentally and psychologically. He’s paid to get after the quarterback and he’s a freak. Believe me, you have to know where he’s at — and I’m going to keep an eye on him the best I can on Sunday.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org