Ravens send Saints marching with 30-24 win

Rice rushes for 153 yards, scores two touchdowns as team holds on late

December 19, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | The Baltimore Sun

Ray Rice ran for 153 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Ravens held onto a 30-24 win over the New Orleans Saints before an announced crowd of 71,432 at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens squandered another fourth-quarter lead — their ninth of the season — but they were able to finish off the defending Super Bowl champions for one of their biggest wins of the season. The Ravens' fourth win in five games moved them to 10-4 and allowed them to keep a one-game lead for a playoff spot in the AFC.

"To beat them this late in the year when they were peaking, it just says something about our team," Rice said. "We respond to situations really well. We've been making it pretty interesting, but one thing about our team is we've got a resilient group that can rebound."

The offense was physical once again, reverting back to its smash-mouth running game. The defense was aggressive, putting pressure on quarterback Drew Brees.

"There was some doubt that we weren't going to be able to beat the defending champs because of last week's performance," Rice said. "But this is a new week. We scored, they scored. We matched them hand-for-hand. We played chess with them today, and it just so happened we finished the game with a checkmate."

The Ravens put the game away with under two minutes left in the game when Haloti Ngata tipped Brees' fourth-down pass and Cory Redding intercepted it. This ended New Orleans' six-game winning streak.

The Saints jumped out to a fast start like they've usually done for most of the season by capitalizing on a Ravens mistake. On a rare blitz, Ed Reed hit the side of Drew Brees' helmet with his right arm to draw a 15-yard roughing the pass penalty. One play later, tight end Jimmy Graham made a one-handed grab before diving for the pylon for an 18-yard touchdown.

The Ravens responded by scoring touchdowns on their next three possessions. Rookie third-round pick Ed Dickson, who was filling in for the injured Todd Heap, scored his first career touchdown, a 34-yarder to tie the game. Ray Rice ran a 10-yard touchdown to put the Ravens ahead, 14-7. And Rice continued a dominating effort in the first half by catching a perfectly thrown 17-yard pass from Joe Flacco in the back of the end zone.

"We keep the pressure on Pittsburgh this way," coach John Harbaugh said. "We're still trying to win the division. They have the edge because they beat us, but we're not conceding that just yet."

Rice totaled 114 yards in the first half (on 20 touches) as the Ravens took a commanding lead for the second straight week. But like six days ago in Houston, the Ravens had a lapse just before halftime.

Brees completed all nine of his passes for 92 yards as the Ravens surrendered another 90 yard-plus drive. His 1-yard touchdown toss to Graham closed the Saints to within 21-14 with 22 seconds left in the first half.

New Orleans chipped into the deficit in the third quarter, when two strips of Brees (by Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs) forced the Saints to go for a long field goal. Garrett Hartley's 47-yard field goal got New Orleans within 21-17.

The Ravens came right back with a field goal of their own, even though they should've had more. A wide-open Le'Ron McClain dropped a pass in the right flat on second down, and the Ravens had to settle for a Billy Cundiff 33-yarder.

It was an all-too-familiar scene later when the Ravens failed to hold a fourth-quarter lead for the ninth time this season. Lance Moore's 15-yard touchdown catch — which bounced off the hands of two players before falling in his in the back of the end zone — tied the game at 11:34. The Ravens challenged the scored because it looked like Moore didn't have both feet in the back of the end zone when he gained possession, but the officials upheld the ruling on the field.

The Ravens drove deep in Saints territory but failed to convert in the red zone again. On third-and-goal from the 9, T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught a pass in the back of the end zone but he could only get one foot inbounds. Cundiff's 32-yard field goal gave the Ravens a 27-24 lead.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com
twitter.com/jamisonhensley

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