Ravens-Broncos instant analysis

Ravens-Broncos instant analysis
January 12, 2013, 8:00 pm
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Rice: 'This one is for Baltimore.'

Ravens 38, Broncos 35
at Mile High Stadium

Down 7 points with no timeouts and 1:09 left, Joe Flacco kept his cool in single-digit temperatures.

Playing from behind throughout the second half, Facco rolled out on 3rd down and 3 and hit Jacoby Jones, who didn't have a catch all game, for a 70-yard strike to tie the score at 35 and send the game into overtime.

The Ravens had the ball for the first possession of overtime but stalled near midfield and couldn't get anything done with their second possession. But the defense, which was able to force Peyton Manning into three turnovers Saturday, came through.

Cornerback Corey Graham, who returned an interception of Manning in the first half 39 yards for a score and a 14-7 lead, did it again. Manning was flushed from the pocket by Paul Kruger and threw across to body to Brandon Stokley. Graham undercut the route to give the Ravens the ball at the Broncos' 45.

Rookie kicker Justin Tucker drilled a 47-yard field goal early in the second overtime period to pull off the upset as the Ravens advanced to play in the AFC championship game for the second year in a row. They'll travel to face the winner of the Houston Texans-New England Patriots. 

It was a back-and-forth game in which the score was tied after each quarter. 

Manning hit Demaryius Thomas on a screen pass, and he broke the tackles of safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis as he sprinted 17 yards to the end zone in what appeared to be the winning score of 35-28 with 7:18 left in the fourth quarter. 

The Broncos played it safe afterwards and gave Flacco one last chance and he cashed in. He scrambled out of the pocket to keep the play alive and found Jones for the score as safety Rahim Moore took a bad angle. 

The Ravens couldn’t move the ball on the ground in the first half. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, who combined for 220 all-purpose yards in a playoff win vs. the Indianapolis Colts one week ago, only ran for 27 yards.

Flacco, however, found an instant connection with Torrey Smith. The Ravens fell behind quickly on Trindon Holliday’s 89-yard punt return for a touchdown, but it took Flacco less than two minutes go even the score.

Smith beat Champ Bailey in one-on-one coverage down the middle for a 59-yard TD catch.

The Ravens briefly took the lead at 14-7 on the Broncos’ next possession when Manning’s pass deflected off the hands of receiver Eric Decker and was returned 39 yards for a touchdown by Corey Graham.

Manning answered by driving Denver 74 yards on 11 plays to the tie the score and was seemingly on his way to an easy victory.

Up 21-14 from a 14-yard pass to Knowshon Moreno, Manning put together a 13-play drive just before halftime with a chance to extend the lead to two scores.

But kicker Matt Prater kicked the dirt before the ball in missing a 52-yard field goal. Three plays later, Flacco found Smith from 32 yards to tie the score at 21 at the break.

The Ravens played from behind throughout the second half. Holliday took the kickoff  for the third quarter 104 yards for a touchdown and a 28-21 lead.

While the offense stalled, the defense started to get to Manning by sacking him twice. The second one was by Pernell McPhee, who caused a fumble that was recovered by Paul Kruger at the Broncos’ 37.

The Ravens ran five consecutive plays with Rice, who broke a 32-yard run, and scored from 1 yard out to tie the score at 28 going into the final quarter.

Player of the game: Smith finished with 3 catches for 98 yards and 2 TDs. And he did it against Bailey, one of the NFL’s best cover corners. Smith is the first player in franchise history to get more than one TD catch in a game.

Turning point: The defense started to get to Manning in the second half, sacking him twice, and his interception that set up the game-winner for the Ravens came when he was on the run. 

Sticking with Rice: Despite their inability to move the ball early, the Ravens stayed with Rice in the second half . Rice had only 6 carries for 23 yards in the first two quarters. He finished with 126 yards on 27 carries.

Suggs steps up: On the Broncos' first possession of overtime, Terrell Suggs stopped RB Ronnie Hillman for 1 yard on 2nd-and-2 and FB Jacob Hester for a loss on 3rd-and-1 to force a punt.  It was a significantly better performance. In their first meeting, Suggs played a season-low 42 snaps because of a torn biceps and had just 1 tackle. 

Pocket presence:  Except for one occasion in the first half when Flacco had to roll out and throw away the ball, his offensive line was stellar and he showed poise throughout. The Broncos have the NFL’s No. 2 overall defense and is the best when it comes to getting sacks. It didn’t get any as Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil were kept at bay in regulation. The one time a defender got a hand on Flacco, he was able to shake free, keep his eyes down field and complete a 10-yard pass to Boldin on the last scoring drive before halftime. The overtime sack was because of coverage and Flacco opted to hold the ball.

Face off: Suggs fought off LT Ryan Clady on 2nd and 20 and sacked Manning. He also caused a fumble that was recovered by Lewis. The Ravens, however, were called for two illegal hands to the facemask on Suggs and Cary Williams that gave Denver the ball back at their own 42 and an automatic first down. Broncos punted and pinned the Ravens on their own 2. 

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