The Baltimore Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns 23-16 in the first National Football League game since a lockout of referees ended.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw one touchdown pass and ran for another score at M&T Stadium in Baltimore, while Cary Williams returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown as the home team improved to 3-1 while keeping the Browns winless.
The referees’ union reached an agreement with the league on an eight-year labor deal Sept. 26, ending a lockout that began in early June.
“The game maybe went a little bit smoother tonight, a little more seamless,” Flacco said in a televised interview.
It was the 13th consecutive home win for the Ravens, the longest active streak in the NFL. Baltimore’s run of 10 straight victories against division rivals is also the most in the league.
The crowd gave officials a standing ovation before the game. “It’s good to be back,” referee Gene Steratore told the captains at the pre-game coin toss, while a banner in the crowd read “Finally we get to yell at real refs. Welcome back.” The honeymoon ended after less than four minutes with Steratore stifling a smile as Baltimore fans jeered his announcement of a holding penalty against Michael Oher.
After a scoreless first quarter, Torrey Smith collected an 18-yard pass from Flacco for a touchdown. Justin Tucker added a 45-yard field goal for Baltimore and Trent Richardson scored on a 1-yard run for Cleveland to make it 9-7 to the Ravens at halftime.
Flacco scored on a 1-yard dash in the third quarter and Williams got Baltimore’s final score after Phil Dawson kicked a 51-yard field goal for Cleveland.
Dawson added two more field goals, from 50 and 52 yards, in the fourth quarter to tie an NFL single-game record by kicking three field goals of 50 yards or longer.
Flacco completed 28 of 46 passing attempts for 356 yards. Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden completed 25 of 52 passes for 320 yards and one interception.
“Our guys battled hard,” said Browns head coach Pat Shurmur. “We fell a couple of plays short.”
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