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It can be difficult for an NFL team to avoid a let-down loss after pulling off an emotional win the week before, but the Baltimore Ravens made it look easy as they earned their third straight victory Oct. 10 with a 31-17 win against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

A week after the Ravens managed a huge come-from-behind win against their archrival Pittsburgh Steelers, the team maintained their energy and pummeled Denver with their running game, rushing for 233 yards. Baltimore backs Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain all contributed to the rushing attack, which allowed Baltimore to control the time of possession and hold the ball for more than 36 minutes compared to Denver’s 23 minutes.

By the time the final whistle, Baltimore had simply scored too many points while keeping Denver’s explosive passing attack off the field.

The win was sealed for the Ravens when…
Veteran tailback Willis McGahee broke loose for a 30-yard touchdown run to push Baltimore’s lead to 31-10 with five minutes left in the game. The Ravens had been running all over Denver’s defense during the entire drive—and for most of the second half. The Broncos scored another touchdown to make the final score 31-17, but they had no chance to mount a comeback with the Ravens controlling the clock with a steady running game.

Outstanding Player of the Game:
Third-year running back Ray Rice earned his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season with 27 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t break a run longer than 18 yards, but stayed patient behind his blocks and picked up positive yards every time his number was called. Rice said he was particularly proud of how the team was able to run the ball when needed after developing most of their offense by passing during their first four games. He credits the offensive line for making it all happen.

“I’ve never seen a group work harder,” Rice said of his blockers. “Those guys work hard; they work very hard. I always have faith in them and the running game. I’ve been running with those guys for three years…they know where I want to run the ball, they get to the spots and all I do is tell them to give me a crack. I don’t need much space; I’m a little guy. But those guys are the reason we were successful.”

Unsung Heroes of the Game:
Other than Rice, no player outperformed veteran kicker Billy Cundiff, who booted four of his six kickoffs for touchbacks, limiting the opportunities for Denver’s dangerous kick returners to make a big return. Cundiff also converted his only field goal try of the game on a 37-yard attempt.

“He’s been as good as any kicker in the league as far as kicking off,” said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. “He’s also making field goals. It takes a lot of pressure off your kickoff team .”
Ravens’ rookie tight end Ed Dickson also shined, hauling in a 58-yard catch on the first drive of the game. Besides making the longest catch for any Raven this season, Dickson also contributed in the run-blocking scheme, helping open up rushing lanes for Rice and company

More Game Notes:
The Ravens came into the Sunday matchup as the top-ranked passing defense in the league, while Denver was ranked as the best passing offense. Denver earned the ranking as Kyle Orton tossed the ball for 314 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 104.5. But Baltimore did limit Orton from putting up the kind of numbers he’s posted so far this season, including nearly 350 yards last week against Tennessee and nearly 500 yards in Week 3 against the Colts. He currently leads the NFL with 1,733 passing yards in just five games.

“The Ravens beat us in every phase of the game,” Orton said. “We didn’t do nearly enough to beat a good team on the road. We’re going to have to play better.”

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis led his team with five tackles, but cornerback Fabian Washington made more of an impact with four pass deflections.

“Denver isn’t afraid to throw it 50-plus times, and that’s what they do, so we knew we had to practice, I would say, that much harder because they’re going to throw the ball so much you don’t want to ever get tired out there,” Washington said. “I think we stepped it up. We held the passing game down pretty much.”

Next Up:
The Ravens will hit the road to face the New England Patriots (3-1 overall) in Gillette Stadium on Oct. 17. If Baltimore pulls off the win, it will be the third road victory they’ve earned against a top-ranked team this season.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor