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(Sunday, October 10th)
Final Score: Baltimore 31, Denver 17
Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - Ray Rice rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries and Baltimore scored the game's first 17 points en route to a 31-17 triumph over Denver at M&T Bank Stadium.
Willis McGahee added a 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and the Ravens piled up a season-high 233 rushing yards in posting their third straight victory. The win gave Baltimore (4-1) sole possession of first place in the AFC's North Division, one half-game ahead of idle Pittsburgh.
Quarterback Joe Flacco also had a rushing touchdown for the Ravens and completed 14-of-25 passes for 196 yards. Baltimore amassed 415 total yards and 28 first downs on the afternoon, while controlling the football for 36 minutes and 17 seconds.
The Ravens ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing offense last season, but were averaging only 84.3 yards per game on the ground and three yards per attempt over the first four weeks.
"It's nice to know we can run the ball," said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. "That's a defense that's pretty much set up to stop the run in a lot of ways, and we did a good job of running on them anyway."
Conversely, Denver (2-3) mustered only 39 rushing yards as a team and continually hurt itself with penalties, committing 10 for a total of 90 yards.
"You can't make 10 penalties, give up 200-some yards rushing against on defense and expect to come out of the game with a victory," said Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels.
Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton did throw for 314 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, his third straight outing with over 300 passing yards in a game. Brandon Lloyd hauled in both of Orton's scoring strikes and finished with 135 yards on five catches.
Jabar Gaffney had a game-high nine catches totaling 87 yards for Denver, which came into the contest off a 26-20 road win at Tennessee.
After being stopped on a fourth-and-goal from the Denver one-yard line on their opening possession, the Ravens scored on their next three drives to build a commanding 17-0 lead.
Flacco capped a nine-play, 73-yard series with a sneak from a yard out for Baltimore's first points, which came with 45 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Ravens quarterback went 4-for-4 for 51 yards on the march, including a 19-yard delivery to Derek Mason on third down that was followed by a 22-yard strike to tight end Todd Heap that placed the ball on the Broncos' 16-yard line.
Following a Denver punt, Baltimore quickly moved 72 yards in five plays and took a 14-0 advantage on Rice's one-yard burst with 10:16 left in the first half. The Ravens got a first-and-goal when Broncos cornerback Perrish Cox was flagged for pass interference on a deep attempt to Mason near the end zone.
Denver rookie Demaryius Thomas then fumbled the ensuing kickoff after being leveled by Jason Phillips and Edgar Jones, with the Ravens recovering on the opposing 20-yard line to set up Billy Cundiff's 38-yard field goal that extended the margin with 9:21 to go in the second quarter.
The Broncos gained only 86 yards and four first downs over their initial four drives, but were finally able to generate some offense near the end of the first half. A 10-yard pass from Orton to Lloyd got Denver into Baltimore territory, and the two hooked up for a 42-yard touchdown with just 48 seconds left before intermission that brought Denver within 17-7.
Denver's offense would sputter again during the third quarter, however, and the Ravens regained a 17-point cushion with a massive 14-play, 67-yard possession that consumed nearly 7 1/2 minutes off the clock. Baltimore ran the ball 11 times during the sequence, with Rice producing 28 yards on six attempts and crossing the goal line from one yard out for a 24-7 lead 39 seconds into the fourth quarter.
"He did grind out yards," said Harbaugh of Rice. "It was one of those kinds of games for Ray. He ran the ball between the tackles and we were grinding out yards, really in the third quarter."
A 28-yard pass from Orton to Daniel Graham led to Matt Prater's 38-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 14 points with 11:50 to go, but Baltimore would respond with another long and back-breaking drive to squash any comeback hopes. The Ravens moved 90 yards in 11 plays, with most of the damage again coming on the ground, and claimed a 31-10 lead when McGahee was sprung loose on a block by fullback LeRon McClain and raced 30 yards into the end zone with 5:06 remaining.
"We didn't do a good enough job of stopping the run," stated McDaniels. "Anytime you're on the field [on defense] for 35 or 36 minutes, that's not a formula to win the way we played today."
Orton and Lloyd connected on another long touchdown in the final minute, a 44- yarder with 35 seconds left that closed out the scoring.
The Ravens moved to 4-1 for only the third time in franchise history, having previously done so in their Super Bowl-winning 2000 season and again in 2006...Baltimore is now 18-1 under Harbaugh when scoring 24 or more points...The Broncos fell to 0-5 all-time at M&T Bank Stadium, which includes a loss in an AFC Wild Card Playoff in 2001...Prater has now made 17 consecutive field goals and is 28-of-29 on three-point tries since November of last season...Thomas suffered a head/neck injury on his fumbled kickoff and did not return....Denver safety Brian Dawkins left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent knee injury, while fellow defensive back Darcel McBath hurt his ankle on the game's opening drive and did not return.
10/10 17:54:19 ET