Ravens prevail in 'championship' game

Ravens prevail in 'championship' game
December 23, 2012, 9:15 pm
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Flacco: 'We came ready to play today"

The Ravens already were in the playoffs going into Sunday, but they didn’t play like a team that was content.

They played hungry, desperate to end a three-game losing streak and prove they are a legitimate threat to make a run for a championship.

In routing the New York Giants 33-14 to win the AFC North and securing a home playoff game, they accomplished at least some of that.

“This was a championship game for us,” running back Ray Rice said. “Solidify the home playoff game, back-to-back division champs. That’s huge around here.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco posted his most complete performance since Week 10, throwing for 309 yards, 2 touchdowns and not committing a turnover at M&T Bank Stadium.

Flacco engineered the no-huddle offense, which had been on hiatus under coordinator Cam Cameron who was fired two weeks ago, in near perfect fashion. He got the Ravens (10-6) out to a 14-0 lead by scoring on their first two drives.

After having six turnovers, two in each of the three-game losing streak, Flacco didn’t have one Sunday. He completed 25-for-36 passes  in a balanced attack. 

“It turned out well. I don’t know what to say besides that,” said Flacco, who has set a single-season career record with 3,783 yards passing. “We operated pretty quickly, so if I had to pick one that, it would probably be that.”

The Ravens had a pair of 100-yard rushers for the first time this season as rookie Bernard Pierce led the way with 123 on 14 carries and Rice added 107 on 24.

Anquan Boldin caught all 7 targets from Flacco, leading the receivers with 93 yards. Torrey Smith had 5 catches for 88 and a TD. Rice had 6 catches for 51 and a TD. Dennis Pitta had 4 for 56 yards.

There were more quick-hitting plays, including on a 5-yard toss to Torrey Smith on 3rd-and-goal, as coordinator Jim Caldwell mixed up the offense in his second game as the play-caller.

Rice had his first receiving TD of the season, taking a slant route 27 yards to put the Ravens ahead 24-7 going into halftime.

“We probably haven’t seen as much of that with Ray. That’s a route we run a lot. That’s one of our base routes,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s nothing new to what we’re doing, but obviously we got the ball to the middle of the field more today which was a good thing for us.”

In a 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos last week, the Ravens fell behind early on two turnovers by Flacco and couldn’t get in sync on offense. Peyton Manning held the ball for 38 minutes.

They turned the tables vs. the Giants, winning the time-of-possession battle 39 to 21 minutes. After converting just 1 of 12 third downs last week, the Ravens made good on 11 of 18 and had 25 first downs. 

A defense that has been burdened with injuries produced 3 sacks of Eli Manning, who only had been taken down 15 times all season. Haloti Ngata, Brendon Ayanbadejo and rookie Omar Brown did the honors for Baltimore.

“We couldn’t get anything going. The Ravens did a very good job on defense,” Manning said. “They put a lot of pressure on me and they gave us a lot of different looks. They made it hard for us. It’s one thing to lose … but we didn’t even give ourselves a chance today. We had no momentum. No spark.”

Flacco got going just in time going into next week’s regular-season finale at the Cincinnati Bengals that has no postseason implications. After completing only 55% of his passes during the losing streak, he at least has some breathing room.

“The quarterback position is a position that is going to be looked at and ripped apart the most and blow up the most,” Flacco said. “It’s not my job to really listen to it. … I believe in myself. I believe in this team.”