The Baltimore Ravens came into their matchup with the visiting New York Giants losers of their last three and having not clinched the AFC North title in three tries. That all changed thanks to Ravens' Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce both cracking the century mark in rushing yards in a 33-14 rout of the Giants yesterday evening.
Baltimore jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead thanks to two Joe Flacco touchdowns, the first a 6 yard pass to Torrey Smith and the second on a 1 yard quarterback sneak. The Giants responded with a touchdown of their own to make it 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, but that would be the closest the game would get the rest of the way, thanks to ten unanswered second quarter points, and three Justin Tucker field goals in the second half to give the Ravens a 33-7 lead, before New York would score a mercy touchdown.
Over the last three weeks, Baltimore's offense looked like they couldn't beat anybody, yesterday they looked like they couldn't lose. Flacco and the Ravens offense showed the fans and the NFL something they haven't seen since Baltimore played the Oakland Raiders in week 10, a consistent four quarters. Although the Ravens didn't score a touchdown in the second half, they remained consistent moving the ball down the field, not turning it over, and putting points on the board. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the performance of Baltimore's running backs, yes backs, as in plural, both Ray Rice (107 yards on 24 carries, 1 rec TD) and Bernard Pierce (123 yards on 14 carries) ran for over a hundred yards helping lead Baltimore to a season high 224 total rushing yards. Pierce's day was capped off by a 78 yard scamper in the fourth quarter that came just one yard shy of a touchdown for the rookie. In new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell's second game, we did see a more up tempo offense with some new wrinkles (including an option from Flacco) and an attitude. All game I saw emotion from Flacco, which something I have been wanting to see for a long time! The Ravens offense finished the game with a season high 533 total yards of offense.
The real story of yesterday's game was the Ravens defense, as they held New York to just 186 total yards of offense and nearly held the Giants to half the time of possession of the Ravens. Although the Ravens did not force Giants quarterback Eli Manning into throwing an interception, they pressured him all game, sacking him three times and hitting him nine times. The Giants offense seemed out of sync all game and Baltimore's defense defined the word domination.
Flacco finished the game with one of his best performances of the season, completing 25 of 36 pass attempts for 309 yards with three touchdowns ( one rush) and most importantly, no turnovers. Rice and Pierce had the great rushing performances, but Anquan Boldin ( 7 catches, 93 yards) and Torrey Smith (5 catches, 88 yards, one TD) had great receiving days as well. Baltimore ended their three game skid and in the process, clinched their second straight AFC North division title. Baltimore is currently the four seed, and would host the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs in two weeks, but if Baltimore beats Cincinnati next week, and the New England Patriots lose, the Ravens would be the three seed and host the Cincinnati Bengals.
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