The lowest stakes Monday night game of the season ended in the most improbable fashion. The Baltimore Ravens blocked a game-winning field goal attempt by the Cleveland Browns and safety Will Hill returned it for a game-winning touchdown. Possession changed four times in the final two minutes, somehow resulting in a 33-27 Ravens win.
The game had little bearing on the NFL playoff picture -- both teams are still well outside the AFC wild card picture. But out of context, Monday night's game wasn't all bad. In fact, there were a number of encouraging things to take away.
First were the quarterbacks. Matt Schaub v. Josh McCown isn't a battle anybody asked for, certainly not in 2015. But McCown played well, and even had a scrambling, gun-slinging touchdown pass to Marlon Moore that was reminiscent of his benched backup Johnny Manziel. Then when McCown got hurt for the Browns, Austin Davis stepped in and tied the game on a nice deep throw to a wide open Travis Benjamin.
Schaub had an ugly night for a winning quarterback. He threw a pick-six for old time's sake, then nearly gave the game away with an interception under a minute remaining that put the Browns a few plays away from field goal position. Davis scrambled for seven yards to the Ravens' 33-yard line, setting up a 51-yard attempt for the win.
Then something you may not see again for a long time:
There were some other impressive individual performances. Ravens rookie return man Kaelin Clay had a sweet punt return for a touchdown to open scoring. Gary Barnidge reasserted the fact that he's one of the best tight ends in the league with seven catches for 91 yards. Javorius Allen did a nice job as the Ravens' bell cow, rushing for 55 yards at 4.6 yards per carry and catching four passes for 29 yards and a score.
Heck, even the referees had a good game. For the first time in what seems like weeks, there were no glaring officiating controversies in a primetime game. Monday night's game was memorable for a reason other than the refs, and that's very refreshing. Ugh, no.
There still signs of the things that put these teams in their current predicaments. Poor coverage on both sides. Schaub misfired when he was put in position to lead a game-winning drive. The Browns' offense moved the ball in spurts in part because of the conspicuous absence of Dwayne Bowe.
Still, it wasn't the awful game many predicted. The outcome of Monday night's game did not matter one bit. These two teams still have just a combined six wins this season -- as many or fewer than 14 NFL teams. The game was played nonetheless, so let's appreciate it for its own sake. Here were three other fun things from Monday's game, besides the obvious:
1) Fast is fun
2) Johnny Football impressions are fun
Josh McCown isn't known for being the fleetest of foot, but for one play in the second quarter, he did a damn good Johnny Manziel impression while Mr. Football himself watched from the sideline.
McCown had a pretty good game overall!
3) Gutsy fourth down conversions are fun
The Ravens went for it on fourth and VERY short from their own 25-yard line.
The Ravens eventually scored a field goal on the drive. They also converted a fourth-and-2 from Cleveland's 34-yard line on their previous touchdown drive.