Flacco explains game changing interception
Broncos 34, Ravens 17
Joe Flacco stayed there, face down, at the goal line face down with 15 seconds left in the first half.
He’d just whiffed on his attempt to tackle Chris Harris, who had returned an interception of Flacco 98 yards for a touchdown just when it appeared the Ravens (9-5) were back in business of a game they’d trailed 10-0.
Instead, it was 17-0 as boos reigned down from the crowd that witnessed the second consecutive home loss in a season that suddenly could be slipping away.
Flacco had a fumble and an interception a week ago as the Ravens blew a 21-14 lead in an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.
Sunday, he did it again as the Ravens lost their third game in a row and failed to clinch the AFC North with a victory. Flacco finished with a deceiving 240 yards passing and two TDs.
The offense showed signs of promise under coordinator in Jim Caldwell, who was installed after Cam Cameron was fired a week ago, but mistakes by Flacco proved too much to overcome.
He fumbled on their first drive at midfield on a sneak on 3rd and 1 that led to a 27-yard FG by Matt Prater.
Flacco threw for 19 yards in the first quarter vs. Denver. He went into the half with 78, with 43 coming on a catch by Jacoby Jones that put the Ravens in position to cut the deficit to three with a touchdown.
His only completion to Torrey Smith was for 14 yards across the middle that placed the ball on Denver’s 4.
But Flacco predictably tried to go outside the hash marks to Anquan Boldin, and Harris jumped the route.
The Ravens’ defense did a more than adequate job in the first half to keep them close. They sacked Peyton Manning twice and held him to 97 yards passing and no touchdown tosses in the first half.
In the third quarter, however, Manning came unleashed as he led the Broncos to consecutive TD drives to run away with the victory. Still he finished with a modest 17-for-28 for 204 yards and 1 TD.
Player of the game: TE Dennis Pitta had 7 catches for 125 yards and 2 TDs, including a 61-yarder that represented the Ravens’ longest play of the season.
Turning point: Flacco’s INT came as the Ravens, who never threatened in the first half, had a chance to make it a one-possession game going into halftime.
Third strikes: The Ravens continue to devolve on third-down plays. After Flacco’s opening fumble on 3rd-and-1, they had 8, 10, 8, 8, 17, 10, 11, 6 yards to go. They failed to convert any of them as they started 0-for-9. A promising drive to start the third quarter ended on a 3rd and 10 with two incomplete passes from Flacco.
Penalty bug: The second-most penalized team in the NFL in yardage, the Ravens finally appeared to find a groove midway through the second quarter when RB Bernard Pierce rumbled for 14 yards. He ran for 15 on the next play, but a holding call on C Matt Birk set them back to 1st-and-17 that they couldn’t convert. The Ravens had 8 penalties in their previous two losses and finished with 6 for 61 yards.
On the spot: Cary Williams was beaten for a 51-yard TD pass to Eric Decker in the third quarter, but he broke up two possible scores, too. He defensed a pass to WR Demaryius Thomas in the end zone as he perfectly timed the throw as he reached over the top. The Broncos had to settle for a field goal. Then after Decker beat him for the score, Williams ran him down the middle of the field to deflect the pass. The Broncos had to punt.
Disappearing act: After getting a season-high 120 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown a week ago, RB Ray Rice had 12 carries for 38 yards and 3 catches for 3.
Head injuries: WR Torrey Smith and Pierce left in the third quarter because of concussions and didn't return.