Ravens Topple Giants and Win AFC North Title

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The shaky, mistake-prone quarterback suddenly morphed into a productive and precise passer. An offense that hasn’t been able to consistently move the ball for weeks chewed up yardage at a dizzying rate. A defense that has been giving up ground for much of the season had a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback consistently on the run.

Nothing the Ravens had done for nearly a month foreshadowed their 33-14 throttling of the New York Giants today before an announced 71,470, the second-largest crowd in M&T Bank history.

The victory, which was really never in doubt once the game began, breaks a frustrating three-game losing streak and clinches the Ravens’ second straight AFC North title. The Ravens (11-4), who now essentially have nothing to play for next week in the regular-season finale in Cincinnati, will host a playoff game in two weeks against either the Cincinnati Bengals or the Indianapolis Colts.

Quarterback Joe Flacco, who hadn’t put together a commanding complete-game performance since mid-November, was 25-for-36 for 309 yards, two touchdown passes, a touchdown run and no turnovers after committing six giveaways over the previous three games.

Ray Rice rushed for 107 yards and had 51 yards receiving, including a 27-yard touchdown catch, and his backup Bernard Pierce rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time in his career. The Ravens’ 224 rushing yards were a season high.

The Ravens outgained the Giants by a 533-186 margin. On defense, the Ravens harassed Eli Manning to a 14-of-28 performance for 150 yards and one touchdown and held Victor Cruz to three catches for 21 yards and Hakeem Nicks without a catch.

With a 1-yard touchdown run by Flacco and touchdown catches of 6 yards by Torrey Smith and 27 yards by Rice, the Ravens took a 24-7 lead into intermission. They never let the reeling Giants up in the second half as Justin Tucker kicked three field goals and the Giants managed only one touchdown when the outcome was already decided.

Flacco spent the week accepting the blame for the Ravens’ recent offensive struggles and denying that he had lost any confidence. He then went out and played a near flawless first half.

After forcing a quick Giants’ punt on the game’s first possession, Flacco took the Ravens 73 yards on 14 plays, culminating the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Smith.

Smith, who was questionable all week after sustaining a concussion in the Ravens’ previous game, celebrated his first touchdown in six weeks with a two-handed dunk over the goal posts.

On the drive, the Ravens were 4 of 4 on third downs after going 1-for-12 in last week’s loss to Denver.

Another three-and-out for the Giants led to another Ravens touchdown as Flacco plunged in from the 1-yard line to make it 14-0. The touchdown was set up by Smith’s 43-yard catch over Giants veteran cornerback Corey Webster, who was picked on all game.

The Giants finally answered on their next drive. Rueben Randle beat Cary Williams for a 43-yard catch and then four plays later, rookie running back David Wilson burst through for a 14-yard touchdown to pull New York within 14-7.

Later in the second quarter, Flacco hit Anquan Boldin for 39 yards on 3rd-and-18 to set up a first-and-goal situation. Flacco hit Jacoby Jones for a 9-yard touchdown pass, but the play was reviewed and subsequently reversed. Rookie Justin Tucker’s 23-yard field goal gave the Ravens a 17-7 lead.

Playing as well as it has in weeks, the Ravens’ defense then got Flacco the ball right back. This time, he engineered a seven-play, 76-yard drive that ended when Flacco hit Rice on a slant for a 27-yard touchdown. It was Rice’s first touchdown reception of the season and it completed a drive in which Flacco went 5-for-5 for 68 yards.

For the half, Flacco was 15-for-20 for 202 yards, two touchdown passes and a touchdown run and a 140.0 quarterback rating. His counterpart, Manning, was 9-of-13 for 106 yards. The Ravens outgained the Giants 289-109.

Article Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun