Tuesday, November 25, 2014
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Ravens rush past Saints, keep pace in AFC North

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[November 25, 2014]  NEW ORLEANS -- The Ravens own seven wins this season -- the same total as every other team in the AFC North this season -- but after pummeling the New Orleans Saints 34-27 Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Baltimore is looking for a lot more.

"This was big," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after his team improved to 7-4, a half-game behind division-leading Cincinnati (7-3-1) and tied with both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. "You're going to have to win a lot of games to win the division and make the playoffs.

"It's just a fact. You're going to need every win you can get. Next week (against the San Diego Chargers) is going to be even bigger. They're only going to get bigger as they go."

The Ravens made every critical offensive play and key defensive stop against the Saints (4-7), who lost their third consecutive home game to fall yet are tied for first with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.

Baltimore running back Justin Forsett rushed for a career-high 182 yards on 22 carries (an 8.3-yard average), including touchdown runs of 13 and 20 yards. The Ravens' offensive line overpowered the Saints' front seven, opening holes for 215 rushing yards.

The biggest play of the game came with the score tied at 17 in the third quarter and the Saints facing a third-and-7 at their own 41-yard line. Quarterback Drew Brees sidestepped pressure from linebacker Terrell Suggs in the pocket but threw a pass in the right flat behind tight end Jimmy Graham.

Safety Will Hill cut underneath the throw to easily pick off the pass, and he raced 44 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, putting the Ravens on top with 4:59 left in the period.

Baltimore never looked back.

"It was a little bit of bad luck," said Brees, who completed 35 of 45 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns. "I was getting wrapped up as the ball was leaving my hands. This is a game of inches and split seconds. Unfortunately, not a lot of those have gone our way this year."

Trailing 17-14 at halftime, the Ravens broke open the game with 13 consecutive points in the second half, including the interception return by Hill.

Justin Tucker sandwiched field goals of 31 and 55 yards around Hill's defensive score, and the Ravens led 27-17 with 10:59 left. The Saints closed the gap to 27-20 on a 34-yard field goal by Shayne Graham, but they failed to get the touchdown they needed.

The Ravens put the game away with 2:53 left on an 80-yard drive that ended with Forsett's second TD of the game, a 20-yard burst off left tackle in which he was untouched after breaking one tackle at the line of scrimmage.

"The running game was obviously huge for us," said Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who also was efficient, completing 18 of 24 for 243 yards and a 15-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith in the first quarter. "Then, when you get into the game and get a feel for what you're doing and how you're doing it -- that's when you make the commitment. The way it was working, we had to keep with (the run)."

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The Saints exploded for 10 points in the final four minutes of the first half to take a 17-14 lead at intermission. After Graham kicked a 20-yard field goal to cut Baltimore's lead to 14-10, Brees got the ball back at his 19 with 1:56 left and no timeouts.

Brees found wide receiver Marques Colston free over the middle for a 19-yard gain to the Ravens' 26. After spiking the ball, Brees lofted a rainbow for Colston, who was running a seam route past safety Matt Elam, and Colston leaped in front of onrushing safety Terrence Brooks in the end zone for the 26-yard touchdown.

The Ravens used a great goal-line stand to stop the Saints without points on New Orleans' first possession. Wide receiver Joe Morgan raced 66 yards on a reverse to the Baltimore 1, but the Saints could not punch it in. On fourth down, nose tackle Haloti Ngata smothered running back Mark Ingram for a 1-yard loss, and the Saints came away empty.

"The way the game was won, you have to go back to the very first two series of the game," Harbaugh said. "Lardarius (Webb) tracks down (Morgan) and makes the tackle, or he could have very easily walked in. Then Ngata makes the stop. Then we drive and put seven on the board. That was a statement by our football team."

Brees threw two touchdowns passes to Graham, but the Saints again looked out of sync.

"We had trouble stopping the run," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "We're not trying to figure it out -- we're trying to correct it."


NOTES: The last time the Ravens came to New Orleans, for Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013, they left the Superdome with 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers. ... Ravens WR Steve Smith built on his reputation as a Saints killer. Smith entered the game having caught 99 passes for 1,493 yards and 10 touchdowns against New Orleans, and he added to that total with four catches for 89 yards and a 15-yard score. ... Saints NT Brodrick Bunkley left the game in the first half due to a leg injury.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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