The Baltimore Ravens pulled off by far their most impressive win of the season as they held off the New Orleans Saints for a 30-24 victory on Dec. 19 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Baltimore produced just enough big plays offensively, defensively and on special teams to hand the 2010 Super Bowl defending champs their first loss in seven games. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh called it one of the most complete performances by his team all season.

“I’m just so proud of the coaches and players on this team for that victory,” Harbaugh said. “The game plan, in all three phases, was tremendous and I thought it was really well executed. They found ways to make plays when they had to make plays…and I’m proud of what we accomplished today. That’s a big win.”

The Ravens sealed the victory when…
Baltimore veteran defensive tackle Corey Redding intercepted a tipped pass by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, giving the Ravens the ball back with a 27-24 lead and less than two minutes remaining in the game. With too short of a field to defend, New Orleans (10-4) watched the Ravens run the ball to bleed time off the clock and call on veteran kicker Billy Cundiff to boot in a 27-yard field goal to extend their lead to 30-24 with just nine seconds left. Saints star Reggie Bush was tackled on the ensuing kickoff, ending the game.

Most Outstanding Player(s) of the Game:
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco only completed 10 passes the entire game, but that’s all Baltimore needed from him as third-year tailback Ray Rice recorded a career-best 233 yards receiving and rushing. Rice rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown, while also catching five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Rice also eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season with his performance; he now has 1,049 rushing yards.

“I actually came into the game joking with the offensive line, but I was serious and told them, ‘I only need 102 yards to get a 1,000, so let’s make it happen,’” Rice said. “But to do it against the defending champs and come away with a W, it was just a great effort. This was my career high from what I was told, that’s why I laid my shoes . I’m going to sign and give them to my mom for Christmas on top of her other gifts.”

Unsung Hero of the Game:
Besides the interception by Redding, Saints quarterback Drew Brees played a nearly flawless game, passing for 267 yards and three touchdowns. The Super Bowl MVP probably would have produced more if not for Ravens punter Sam Koch, who twice pinned the Saints inside their own 10-yard line. Koch booted 5 punts for 193 yards, forcing New Orleans to execute long offensive drives to score. Brees is a tough quarterback to stop, but even he can’t drive 90 yards on every possession.

Next Up:
The Baltimore Ravens (10-4) will finish out the last two games of the season against AFC North division opponents, starting with a Dec. 26 matchup against the Cleveland Browns (5-9) and ending with a Jan. 2 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals (3-11). If Baltimore wins both games, they’ll finish with a 12-4 record for the first time since their Super Bowl championship season in 2000. They still have a shot at retaking the AFC North division crown, but they’ll need the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) to lose at least one of their final games.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor