Ravens clinch AFC North

Ravens clinch AFC North
December 23, 2012, 7:00 pm
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Flacco: 'We came ready to play today"

Ravens 33, Giants 14

at M&T Bank Stadium

In his second game under a new offensive coordinator, Joe Flacco suddenly looks reborn as does the no-huddle.

The Ravens (10-6) won the AFC North on Sunday and ended a three-game losing streak in which Flacco had completed only 55% of his passes and had 6 turnovers.

Unlike in last week’s 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos when Flacco fumbled on a sneak on the Ravens’ first possession, he held onto the ball from the goal line as they went up 14-0 in the first quarter.

There was more play action and quicker-hitting plays, including on a 5-yard toss to Torrey Smith on 3rd-and-goal, as the coordinator Jim Caldwell mixed up the offense in his second game as the play-caller since taking over for Cam Cameron:

--  Bernard Pierce had 4 carries for 34 yards in the first quarter, including an 18-yard run on the first drive

-- Jacoby Jones converted a key third down with a 7-yard catch in the red zone. He had what appeared to be a TD catch that was overruled in the second quarter.

-- Anthony Allen, a special-teams player and third-string running back, had a third-down catch for 5 yards to keep the first drive alive. It was his first catch of the season and first touch in the offense since Week 5.

-- Flacco ran the option as Ray Rice went 14 yards on the pitch.

Rice finished with 24 carries for 107 yards, but also had his first receiving TD of the season. He had 6 catches for 51.  

Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, who combined for 1 catch for 14 yards last week, had 12 for 181.

Giants QB Eli Manning never could get into a groove as he was sacked 3 times and threw for 14-for-28 for 150 yards. Big-play receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks were held to 3 catches for 21 yards and 0 TDs. 

Player of the game: Flacco. After getting a lion’s share of the blame during the losing streak, he gets the credit went 25-for-39 for 306 yards, 2 TDs and had no turnovers.

Turning point: Ahead by 10 with 3:15 left until halftime, Flacco went 5-for-5 for 68 yards that culiminated with a 27-yard catch and run by Rice for a TD that all but put the game out of reach. The Ravens led 24-7 going into halftime and the Giants never could threaten. 

Pocket protection: The Ravens had give up 13 sacks of Flacco in the last 4 games, equal to the number of sacks allowed in the first 10 games. The Giants never got to him until a busted play in the fourth quarter. When they got close in the third, Flacco calmly stepped up in the pocket and completed a 36-yard pass to TE Dennis Pitta.

Third downs: To open the game, the Ravens were 4-for-4 on their first drive alone after failing to convert on 11 of 12 attempts a week ago. They were 9-for-13, including an 18-yard conversion. 

Busting loose: Pierce had his first 100-yard rushing game as a rookie, going 78 yards as he was pushed out at the 1. He had 14 carries for 123, which is a single-game rushing high for the Ravens this season. 

Personal fouls: The Ravens were hit with three personal foul calls, two on their second drive of the third quarter, that put them at an NFL-high 32 for the season. Smith was called for a blindside block, though replays showed he did not hit LB Keith Rivers from behind or in the head and neck area. Smith hit him squarely in the chest with his shoulder. LT Michael Oher was hit with a chop block -- hitting a defender below the waist while he was engaged in another block –- as well as a holding call on the same drive. S Ed Reed was called for a blow to the head of Cruz in the fourth quarter, though replays showed his shoulder made contact with the chest and not the helmet. The NFL initially suspended Reed earlier this season for leading with the helmet but it was reduced to a $50,000 and he didn't lose a week's salary ($423,000).