Rice Runs Ravens Into AFC North Lead
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BALTIMORE (AP) Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens demonstrated to Denver the value of an effective running game.
The Broncos’ one-dimensional attack was no match for the balance of the Ravens, who frustrated Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton in a 31-17 victory Sunday.
Rice ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns to key a ground game that garnered 233 yards. Baltimore (4-1) jumped to a 17-0 lead and coasted to its third straight win, the first this season by double digits.
After the Ravens took control in the first half with their passing game, Joe Flacco was content to give the ball to running backs Rice, Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain.
“(Denver) started doing some things to combat what we were doing. Then came our running game,” Flacco said. “Our offensive line did a great job. Ray was just finding the little holes, putting us in good third-down situations.”
Orton, on the other hand, found himself in nearly impossible situations because of a running game that generated a mere 39 yards on 13 carries.
“It’s frustrating. You can’t win any game, you can’t beat a college team at third-and-15, third-and-12, third-and-20,” Orton said. “It seemed like 80 percent of the time we were in third downs.”
Orton went 23 for 38 for 314 yards and two touchdowns to Brandon Lloyd, the last one a 44-yarder with 35 seconds remaining. It was Orton’s fourth straight 300-yard game, and he ranks second in the league with 1,733 yards passing.
But the Broncos (2-3) are a sub-.500 team.
“We were out-coached, outplayed, out-toughed,” coach Josh McDaniels said. “On the road against a good team, it’s going to be tough to overcome those things.”
Denver hoped to establish the run against the Ravens, but Baltimore wasn’t about to let that happen.
“They’re a big physical team and they certainly play well up front. They’ve got good players everywhere,” McDaniels said. “This is a team that doesn’t have many weaknesses.”
The Broncos fell to 0-5 against the Ravens in Baltimore. In those games, Denver has been outscored 142-56, including 60-24 over the last two years.
“They’re just so good,” Orton said. “It’s tough to play them anywhere. Just be honest, they beat us up today.”
The Ravens led 17-7 at halftime after keeping the Broncos from crossing the 50-yard line until after the two-minute warning.
A 58-yard pass from Flacco to tight end Ed Dickson helped the Ravens move to the Denver 1 on their opening possession. The drive fizzled when McGahee was twice stuffed at the line and Jason Hunter sacked Flacco on fourth down.
“We didn’t succeed on the one,” Flacco said, “but we did a great job after that.”
Baltimore got it right on its second try, marching 73 yards to go up 7-0. Flacco went 4 for 4 for 51 yards before sneaking in from the 1, his first touchdown since Oct. 26, 2008.
The Ravens again forced a punt, then scored again. After Denver’s Perrish Cox was called for pass interference in the end zone, Rice took it in from the 1.
First-round draft pick Demaryius Thomas fumbled the ensuing kickoff when hit by Jason Phillips, a collision that forced Thomas from the game with head and neck injuries. Baltimore recovered at the 20, and a field goal by Billy Cundiff made it 17-0.
The Broncos finally broke through with 48 seconds left in the half on a 42-yard pass from Orton to Lloyd, who made a diving catch in the back of the end zone.
In the fourth quarter, after Rice scored on a 1-yard run, Matt Prater kicked a field goal for Denver to make it 24-10.
McGahee iced the victory with a 30-yard touchdown run with 5:06 remaining.