Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis, who suffered a toe injury on his right foot in Week 10, was inactive Sunday. But his absence was mitigated by the play of Dannell Ellerbe, who made seven tackles in his return to the field after missing the Thanksgiving win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Ellerbe practiced all week despite a groin injury that had sidelined him for one game. He started for Lewis alongside Jameel McClain in the Ravens' 24-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
"It feels awesome to play a full game. My last full game was [against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2]," said Ellerbe, who has also missed time with a hamstring injury. "I feel great."
He and McClain each had a team-high seven tackles as the Ravens held running back Peyton Hillis and the rest of the Browns' runners to 59 rushing yards.
"They had some success early, but we knew we could stop him as the game progressed," he said.
Lewis has now missed three consecutive games for the first time since 2005. He made the trip to Cleveland and gave the team a speech on the field after pre-game warm-ups. But the Ravens opted to play it safe on this soggy Sunday evening and keep him in sweats on the sidelines.
J. Smith makes first NFL start
On the first play from scrimmage, cornerback Jimmy Smith, the team's first-round pick in April's draft, lined up across from Browns wideout Mohamed Massaquoi, marking his first NFL start.
Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb also started as the Browns began the game in a three-receiver set. Webb was the nickel cornerback with Smith and Williams on the outside.
"That's considered starting?" said Smith, oblivious to the milestone. "Oh, then it felt good."
In the second quarter, Smith recorded his second interception of the season, picking off a Colt McCoy pass intended for Massaquoi and returning it 32 yards to the Cleveland 15-yard line.
Cundiff misses a couple of kicks
Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a pair of field goals as the Ravens tried to expand their lead in the first half. Cundiff was 1-for-3 against the Browns and is now 26-for-34 on the season.
Cundiff's first miss was a 34-yard attempt that he pushed wide right in the second quarter. It was the first attempt inside of 40 yards that Cundiff has missed in 2011 and his shortest miss since he shanked a 30-yard field goal in a win over the Chicago Bears late in the 2009 season.
Later in the second quarter, Cundiff sailed a 41-yard attempt wide right of the uprights again.
"You have to learn how to kick differently," Cundiff said. "My style isn't conducive to kicking in Cleveland, but that doesn't mean I can't have success. I'm going to figure it out. My frustration level is pretty high because your stats get away from you and people say you didn't have a good year. … All things aside — bad field and a lot of wind — I still feel like I can make those kicks."
Webb takes one to the house
Webb, who is also the Ravens' primary punt returner, sealed the win with a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter. It was the team's first return TD of 2011.
"All 10 guys, everybody got a guy. We've been working on it all week," Webb said, giving the credit to his blockers. "That's just how important a punt return is, how it can change the game."
It was the first career punt return touchdown for Webb, who has returned 45 punts in his three seasons. Webb has, however, scored on a kickoff return, taking one 95 yards in his rookie year.
Taylor gets into the action
Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, a 2011 sixth-round draft pick, took his first snap in the NFL during the second quarter. With starting quarterback Joe Flacco lined up as a wide receiver on the left side of the field, Taylor took a shotgun snap and ran for two yards off right tackle.
It was the first time since Troy Smith threw four passes in a win over the Chicago Bears in Week 15 of the 2009 season that a player other than Flacco lined up at quarterback for the Ravens.
"It was exciting. I got a chance to put my hands on the ball in a game and I just tried to make the best out of it," said Taylor, adding he is prepared for whatever the coaches ask him to do.
On the next play, Ray Rice scored on a six-yard touchdown run to give the Ravens a 7-0 lead.