Sport : NFL

Ravens finally claim crown

24th December 2012, 07:48am

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Joe Flacco: Outstanding for the Ravens

Joe Flacco: Outstanding for the Ravens

On their fourth try, the Baltimore Ravens finally got the victory they needed to win the AFC North.

Joe Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, and the Ravens defeated the New York Giants 33-14 Sunday to capture their second straight division crown.

The Ravens (10-5) led 24-7 at halftime and cruised to the finish behind a short-handed defense that harassed quarterback Eli Manning and limited New York (8-7) to 186 yards.

Playing its second game with Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator, Baltimore scored touchdowns on its first two possessions and amassed a season-high 533 yards -- including 289 in the first half alone.

The victory ended a three-game skid for the Ravens and assured them of a home playoff game in the first weekend of January.

The defeat eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Giants (8-7) from contention in the NFC East and severely damaged their chances of qualifying for a playoff berth.

New York has lost five of seven and was coming off a 34-0 defeat at Atlanta. In this one, Manning went 14 for 28 for 150 yards and was sacked three times.

Flacco, meanwhile, rebounded from a stretch in which he committed two turnovers in each of Baltimore's three straight defeats. He completed 25 of 36 passes, ran for a score and did not throw an interception or lose a fumble.

Flacco repeatedly picked on New York cornerback Corey Webster, who simply couldn't contain Torrey Smith or Anquan Boldin. Smith caught five passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, and Boldin finished with seven receptions for 93 yards.

Ray Rice ran for 107 yards and caught six passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. Backup Bernard Pierce gained 123 yards rushing as part of a running attack that generated 224 yards.

Baltimore's defense was also impressive despite the absence of injured linebackers Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain, along with safety Bernard Pollard.

Now, after ending its longest losing streak since 2009, Baltimore is assured of hosting a first-round playoff game during the first weekend in January.

New York, on the other hand, fell out of a first-place tie in the NFC East and will need a win over Philadelphia next week -- along with help from other teams -- to squeeze into the postseason

Baltimore's first drive ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Smith. The play came after officials overturned a fumble by Jacoby Jones at the New York 5 following a replay review.

The 73-yard march featured a few new wrinkles from the Ravens' offense, most notably an option pitch from Flacco to Rice and third-string running back Anthony Allen's first catch of the season, a first-down grab at the New York 40.

After the Giants went three-and-out for a second straight time, Smith made an outstanding catch behind Webster for a 43-yard gain before Flacco scored from the 1.

Manning followed with a four-play, 77-yard drive highlighted by a 43-yard completion to Rueben Randle and a 14-yard touchdown run by David Wilson.

That, however, would be the extent of the New York offense until Domenik Hixon caught a 13-yard touchdown pass with 3:18 left. After scoring 52 against New Orleans on Dec. 9, the Giants have totaled only 14 points in the past two weeks.

The Ravens went up 17-7 midway through the second quarter. After Boldin burned Webster for 39-yard gain on a third-and-19, a replay erased a 9-yard touchdown catch by Jacoby Jones and forced Baltimore to settle for a field goal.

Late in the half, the Ravens moved 76 yards in seven plays for a 24-7 lead. Flacco went 5 for 5 for 68 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Rice.

Baltimore opted for ball control in the second half, and the Giants were powerless to stop them. After an exchange of punts at the start of the third quarter, the Ravens moved 82 yards in 16 plays, holding the ball for just short of eight minutes, before Justin Tucker kicked a 20-yard field goal.

The lead became 30-7 with 11:08 left when Tucker concluded a 13-play, 62-yard drive with a 30-yard field goal.


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