BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens finally awoke from their nightmare.
After being knocked from the playoffs on last-minute touchdowns the past two years, C.J. Mosley delivered some redemption.
The Pro-Bowl linebacker tipped a pass from Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield and then came down with an interception to seal a 26-24 victory, helping the Ravens clinch their first AFC North crown since 2012.
Baltimore (10-6) is the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs and will host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Ravens beat the Chargers on the road 22-10 in Week 16.
“I told the guys last night this is the best team I’ve ever been associated with in 34 years of coaching, even back to peewee” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “Look at this bunch of guys. Remember what this is because this is what a team is.This is what a real team looks like.”
Just minutes before Mosley made the biggest play of his five-year career, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13, putting themselves in position to overtake the Ravens in the division. As a result, Baltimore needed to a victory to stay ahead in the standings and end a three-year playoff drought.
The defense delivered with an all-out blitz that forced the poor throw by Mayfield that Mosley was able to corral with just over a minute remaining.
“I was about to get greedy to rush and then I saw him pass and I just dropped back to my zone -- right place, right time,” Mosley said. “felt like it was in the air forever.”.
Baltimore finished with a season-high 296 yards rushing. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 90 of those yards with a pair of touchdowns.
However, he fumbled trying to reach over the goal line late in the first half that would have given the Ravens a three-score lead.
That proved to be costly because Cleveland was able to chip away and get back in the game.
“Our defense came out with a victory,” Jackson said. “We should have finished it, but it was an all-around team game. We did our part sometimes, but we need to finish in the red zone. It was a good team win.”
The Browns (7-8-1) pulled to within 20-14 early in the third quarter on a 48-yard touchdown pass from rookie Baker Mayfield to Jarvis Landry. Baltimore was able to get some breathing room on a pair of field goals by Justin Tucker from 44 and 23 yards that provided a 26-17 lead with 7:20 left in the game.
The Browns cut the lead to two points on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to Antonio Callaway. The Ravens went 3 and out on the ensuing drive that paved the way for the Browns to put together a potential game-winning drive before Mosley came up big on a 4th and 10.
Mayfield ended his dynamic rookie season on a dour note. He was 23 of 42 for 376 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Mayfield did take some solace in the Browns gutsy performance. He is confident better days are ahead.
“Obviously, we would have like to have won,” Mayfield said. “But there are a lot of positives we can find from this game. Playing on the road in this kind of atmosphere, we put ourselves in position to win. When we fell behind. We never gave up. We just kept playing hard.”
Landry created matchup problems throughout the game and finished with 102 yards on nine receptions.
Last year, the Ravens surrendered a 49-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd on a 4th and 12 in the final minute that gave Cincinnati a 31-27 victory, allowing the Bills to secure the final postseason spot.
In 2016, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown extended the ball over the goal line on a 4-yard touchdown reception with nine seconds remaining to provide a 31-27 victory that officially eliminated Baltimore from the playoffs.
A sold-out M&T Bank Stadium grew silent in the final minute as images of those games danced in their heads.
This time, the Ravens closed out the victory.
“I appreciate the courage of our players. One year ago, we were in the exact same place,” Harbaugh said. “We fought through it.”
Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon had a career-high 112 yards on 17 carries.
Browns receiver Breshad Perriman, a former first-round pick by Baltimore, got a measure of revenge against his former team. He caught three passes for 45 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown in the first quarter that gave Cleveland a 7-3 lead.