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Bird Brains: Ravens Put Giants Season On Brink

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. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A celebration four weeks in the making featured
laughs and hugs, a surprise appearance by team owner Steve
Bisciotti and the distribution of hats announcing the Baltimore
Ravens’ stature as AFC North champions.
Joe Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, and the
Ravens defeated the New York Giants 33-14 Sunday to end a
three-game losing streak to secure their second straight division
crown.
“It feels good,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said in the upbeat
locker room. “I’m just glad we finally got it done.”
The Ravens (10-5) led 24-7 at halftime and cruised behind a
short-handed defense that harassed quarterback Eli Manning and
limited New York to 186 yards.
Playing its second game with Jim Caldwell as offensive
coordinator, Baltimore scored touchdowns on its first two
possessions and amassed a season-high 533 yards _ 289 in the first
half alone.
“It’s about execution, man. It’s a simple word, but it’s a very
tough task to do,” said running back Ray Rice, who ran for 107
yards and caught six passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. “This
was a championship game for us.”
After ending their longest losing streak since 2009, the Ravens
are assured a home playoff game on the first weekend of January.
“We know what’s at stake. We want the AFC championship and it
starts tonight,” safety James Ihedigbo said. “We’re not looking
at regular season. Playoffs started for us and we’re going to keep
on playing.”
The defeat eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Giants
(8-7) from contention in the NFC East and severely damaged their
chances of qualifying for the playoffs.
New York has lost five of seven and was coming off a 34-0 defeat
at Atlanta. In this one, Manning went 14 for 28 for 150 yards and
was sacked three times.
“Obviously, we have a bad formula going on right here,” coach
Tom Coughlin said. “We’re having trouble stopping people and our
offense doesn’t hold the ball at all to give the defense a chance
to catch their breath. We’ve had two games in a row, pretty much
the exact same scenario.”
Flacco, meanwhile, rebounded from a stretch in which he
committed two turnovers in each of Baltimore’s three straight
defeats. He completed 25 of 36 passes, ran for a score and did not
throw an interception or lose a fumble.
He repeatedly picked on cornerback Corey Webster, who simply
couldn’t contain Smith or Anquan Boldin. Smith caught five passes
for 88 yards and a touchdown, and Boldin finished with seven
receptions for 93 yards.
Backup Bernard Pierce gained 123 yards as part of a running
attack that generated 224 yards.
Baltimore’s defense was also impressive despite missing injured
linebackers Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain, along with safety Bernard
Pollard.
New York fell out of a first-place tie in the NFC East. The
Giants will need a win over Philadelphia next week and help from
other teams to squeeze into the postseason.
“I feel badly for everyone in that locker room because they
can’t turn this thing around either,” Coughlin said. “What has
happened over the course of the last couple of weeks is very
difficult to explain. We just don’t look like a well-oiled machine
offensively at all.”
Said Manning: “We knew we had to play our best football at the
end of the season to get into the playoffs, and we haven’t done
that. When you’re not playing your best, teams can come out and
embarrass you.”
Baltimore’s first drive ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass from
Flacco to Smith after officials overturned a fumble by Jacoby Jones
at the New York 5 following a replay review.
The 73-yard march featured a few new wrinkles from the Ravens,
most notably an option pitch from Flacco to Rice. and third-string
running back Anthony Allen’s first catch of the season, a
first-down grab at the New York 40.
After the Giants went three-and-out for a second straight time,
Smith made an outstanding catch behind Webster for a 43-yard gain
and Flacco scored from the 1.
Manning followed with a 43-yard completion to Rueben Randle
before David Wilson ran 14 yards for a touchdown. New York didn’t
score again until Domenik Hixon caught a 13-yard touchdown pass
with 3:18 left.
After racking up 52 points against New Orleans, the Giants have
totaled 14 in the past two weeks.
“All we can do is go out and get back to playing better
football,” Manning said.
The Ravens went up 17-7 midway through the second quarter. After
Boldin burned Webster for 39-yard gain on a third-and-19, a replay
erased a 9-yard touchdown catch by Jones and forced Baltimore to
settle for a field goal.
Late in the half, the Ravens moved 76 yards in seven plays for a
24-7 lead. Flacco went 5 for 5, including a 27-yard touchdown pass
to Rice.
Baltimore opted for ball control in the second half, and the
Giants were powerless to stop it. The Ravens moved 82 yards in 16
plays, holding the ball for just short of eight minutes, before
Justin Tucker kicked a 20-yard field goal.
The lead became 30-7 when Tucker concluded a 13-play, 62-yard
drive with a 30-yard field goal. Tucker added his fourth field goal
after a 78-yard run by Pierce.
NOTES: Flacco has thrown for a career-high 3,783 yards this
season. … New York defensive linemen Marvin Austin and Chris
Canty both left with knee injuries. … Boldin hurt his shoulder in
the third quarter and did not return. … Baltimore has won 10
straight regular-season home finales and has 13 consecutive home
victories over NFC foes. … It was only the fifth time in 47 games
that New York did not force a turnover.
___
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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