Ravens lose McNair, beat Browns to clinch playoff spot

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Kyle Boller finished what Steve McNair started.

With McNair watching from the sideline with an injured right
hand, Boller carried the Ravens into the playoffs, throwing two
touchdown passes in a 27-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns on

Because of his fine play in the Ravens' first 13 games, McNair
put Baltimore in position to clinch a postseason berth by defeating
the Browns. The veteran quarterback could not complete the task,
however, after having his right hand cut open during the second
series of the game.

Enter Boller, whose inconsistency over the previous three years
caused the Ravens to trade for McNair during the offseason.

"Everybody knows life in the NFL is very tenuous when it comes
to your backup," Baltimore coach Brian Billick said. "He has to
be ready to play. I thought Kyle played very well today."

McNair indicated he expects to play next Sunday.

The Ravens (11-3) had blown a 14-point lead when Boller threw a
77-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Williams with 5:24 left in the
third quarter, and the lead stood up.

"We know we're the best defense in the NFL," linebacker Bart
Scott said. "We had to go play like that."

Jamal Lewis ran 22 times for 109 yards and a touchdown for the
Ravens, who are assured a spot in the playoffs for the first time
since 2003. Baltimore will win the AFC North if Cincinnati loses to
Indianapolis on Monday night.

"Making the playoffs, that's step one," Billick said. "Every
team, when they show up at training camp you have the same goal. It
first begins with making the playoffs, and we're there."

Cleveland (4-10) did not go down easily. Former Ravens draft
choice Derek Anderson went 23-for-32 for 233 yards, and his
touchdown throws to Joe Jurevicius and Braylon Edwards brought the
Browns out of a 17-3 hole.

"I saw the field real well and I had a good idea of what they
were doing," Anderson said. "I made pretty good decisions for the
most part. They just got me a couple of times."

Anderson completed 13 straight passes at one point. But he was
intercepted twice, sacked five times and went 0-for-11 on
third-down opportunities.

"We gave them too much," Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel said.
"And when you give good football teams yards and plays, they
usually take advantage of it."

It was 17-all when Boller dropped back and heaved the ball to
Williams, who had slipped behind two defenders. The rookie caught
the ball in stride at the 20, cut left and completed his journey
with a dive into the end zone.

"I just wanted to put it up there nice and high for him, let
him run underneath it," Boller said.

Boller, who started 34 games for the Ravens from 2003-2005, went
13-for-21 for 238 yards. He threw an interception and lost a
fumble, but played well enough to prevent Billick from thrusting
McNair back into action.

"You can't let the little things bother you," Boller said.
"You've got to keep grinding."

With the Ravens nursing a 24-17 lead, Boller completed a 42-yard
pass to Mark Clayton to set up the clinching score, a 22-yard field
goal by Matt Stover with 2:53 left.

McNair left after Cleveland's Andra Davis accidentally stepped
on his hand after he threw an incomplete pass. He was 0-for-4.

Baltimore took a 7-3 lead while McNair was receiving X-rays for
his injury. Dawan Landry intercepted an overthrown pass by Anderson
and returned it 37 yards to the Cleveland 16, setting up a 7-yard
touchdown run by Lewis.

After a Cleveland punt, Boller converted three third-down plays
during an 85-yard drive that put Baltimore up 14-3. Boller went
5-for-6 for 50 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ovie
Mughelli, and ran twice for 14 yards.

Baltimore's next drive, however, ended with an interception by
Leigh Bodden -- the first against the Ravens in five games. Boller
fumbled a snap on the next possession and Cleveland recovered on
the Baltimore 26, but Phil Dawson missed a 47-yard field goal.

The Ravens then moved 42 yards before Stover kicked a 38-yard
field goal to make it 17-3.

Anderson responded by going 6-for-6 during a 70-yard drive
culminated with his 3-yard touchdown pass to Jurevicius.

The Browns held the ball for more than 11 minutes in the third
quarter, but Boller found enough time to deliver the pivotal pass
to Williams.

Game notes
Davis and Ravens CB Corey Ivy left with concussions. ...
Ravens CB Samari Rolle left with a shoulder sprain. ... Jurevicius
left with headaches, and Cleveland RB Jason Wright sustained a
"pretty severe" knee injury, Crennel said.