BALTIMORE–Joe Flacco completed 25-of-36 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns scored as the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the New York Giants, 33-14, in a non-conference matchup on Dec. 23 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md.

The Ravens had already clinched a playoff seed Dec. 16 when archrival Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Dallas Cowboys, but this win over the Giants made them the American Football Conference (AFC) North champs.

The win also snapped a three-game losing funk suffered by the Ravens, who had fallen to the Steelers on Dec. 2, followed by losses to the Washington Redskins on Dec. 9 and the Denver Broncos on Dec. 16.

The Ravens’ victory was highlighted by a stellar performance from the offensive unit, which had struggled throughout most of the second half of this season. Baltimore had played so bad on offense that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired on Dec. 10 after nearly five seasons with the Ravens.

The offense that stunk it up Dec. 16 in the debut of Cameron’s replacement, Jim Caldwell, redeemed itself with perhaps its best performance of the year.

The Ravens produced 533 yards on offense, the most recorded in a single game all season. With the offense rolling, the pressure was taken off the Ravens’ defensive unit, which was able to hold the Giants to just seven points scored each half.

Most Outstanding Player(s) of the Game:
Give Joe Flacco all the credit in the world for this beat down Baltimore delivered to New York, because he certainly gets all the blame when the team plays bad. Flacco was flawless today as he tossed two touchdown passes and ran in another one, recording a 114.2 passer rating and personally accounting for 21 of the Ravens’ 33 points.

He would have had three touchdown passes but one of his scores was called back on a bogus call from the refs. What makes Flacco’s performance so impressive is it came against the Giants’ aggressive defensive line, which has a reputation for harassing opposing quarterbacks. Flacco now has 25 touchdowns scored this season with 10 interceptions and four fumbles lost.

Unsung Heroes of the Game:
The Ravens’ offense stole the show today but major credit belongs to the play by the Ravens’ secondary. New York has one of the best receiving corps in the National Football League (NFL) with playmakers like Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks out wide.

Cruz and Nicks have scored a combined 12 touchdowns this season but neither came near the end zone Sunday, thanks to the strapping coverage of defensive backs Corey Graham, Ed Reed, Cary Williams and James Ihedigbo. With the Ravens secondary keeping the Giants receivers contained, the Ravens were able to run away with the victory.

More Game Notes:
Ravens running back Ray Rice got plenty of touches in this game, rushing for 107 yards on 24 carries. He also caught six passes for 51 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown catch.

Rice’s backup, rookie running back Bernard Pierce, also ran well, picking up a career-high 123 yards on 14 carries.

Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin led the Ravens with seven catches for 93 yards, while second-year receiver Torrey Smith hauled in five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.

Rookie kicker Justin Tucker nailed four field goals, including a couple of kicks booted in the fourth quarter to help extend Baltimore’s lead.

New York quarterback Eli Manning had a below-average performance, completing 14 of 28 passes for only 150 yards and one touchdown. Giants running back David Wilson scored the Giants only other touchdown on an 11-yard run.

Hats off to Jim Caldwell for bouncing back from last week’s disaster with an excellent game plan against New York. He utilized the up-tempo, no-huddle offense that Flacco loves and ran effectively earlier in the season. He also let Flacco throw out of the shotgun-spread formation, putting Boldin into the slot position, which created mismatches for the Ravens.

Boldin isn’t the fastest receiver, but he’s big and very physical so playing in the slot position, where he can work the middle of the field, gives Baltimore an advantage over opposing linebackers and safeties.

Boldin was used at the slot during his Pro Bowl years with the Arizona Cardinals, but when he came to Baltimore in 2010, they tried to play him out wide. He doesn’t have the speed to beat fast cornerbacks out wide, so hopefully Caldwell took notice and will use him at slot from now on. If the offense can keep this up once the playoffs begin in January, expect another great run at the Super Bowl.

The Ravens (10-5) will play the final game of the season on the road against AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) on Dec. 30.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor