Giants give Ravens the blues

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Trampled by bruising powerhouse running back Brandon Jacobs and bewildered by the sharp cuts of Ahmad Bradshaw, the Baltimore Ravens' swaggering defense had a humbling experience Sunday afternoon against the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

The top-ranked run defense in the NFL practically left Giants Stadium sporting cleat marks and a bad case of whiplash as the Giants' top-ranked running game steamrolled the Ravens in a stinging 30-10 defeat where they rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries.

The Ravens (6-4) hadn't allowed that many rushing yards in over a decade, but couldn't halt the Giants (9-1) from piling up their third consecutive 200-yard rushing game. It's the most rushing yards allowed by Baltimore since surrendering 214 yards on the ground to the Pittsburgh Steelers in an Oct. 5, 1997 game.

"It was a thumping," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "It's the biggest thumping I've been a part of for a long time. Even the Indianapolis game didn't feel like this one. We can't do nothing about it now.

"It's gone. There's nothing good we can take from this. The score was bad. We played bad. They're the best team in football."

And the second-ranked defense's NFL-high 29-game streak of not allowing an opposing rusher to eclipse 100 yards nearly vanished as Bradshaw gained 96 yards on nine carries, including 77 on one electrifying run where he faked out star middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

If not for a sore knee, Jacobs could have easily generated totals higher than 73 yards and two scores on 11 carries. Jacobs rushed for all but three of his yards in the first quarter.

"They're really good at running the ball, as you can see," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Am I embarrassed? Definitely embarrassed, but the bad thing is we prepared for what they do.

"We knew they would run the ball. Our coaches did a great job of giving us a great scheme. Not only did we let them down, but we let ourselves down."

The breakdowns cropped up immediately in the first quarter.

On Jacobs' first carry, he darted toward his right and ran into interference from Pryce. He bounced off, reversed field and dashed away from defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, Suggs and linebacker Jarret Johnson before strong safety Jim Leonhard finally pushed the 6-foot-4, 264-pounder out of bounds at the Ravens' 32-yard line for a 36-yard run.

"That's what I do," Jacobs said. "I set the tone for our team."

Jacobs continued to pound the football, rushing for 53 yards on six carries=2 0during the Giants' first scoring drive.

With a first down at the Ravens' 16-yard line, Jacobs carried it four consecutive times before bulling into the end zone as free safety Ed Reed dove at Jacobs in vain on his first touchdown run from one yard out.

"I actually think that Ahmad Bradshaw ran better than Jacobs did," Pryce said. "It's just that the holes they were running through were so big. The holes were gaping, gaping.

"If you give any NFL back holes like that, he's going to look like Gale Sayers. It wasn't so much that they were ultra-special, but it was more that we were ultra-bad."

The momentum permanently shifted when kicker Matt Stover's 32-yard field goal attempt on Baltimore's subsequent drive was blocked by defensive tackle Fred Robbins and covered by Ravens tight end Edgar Jones all the way back at their 33-yard line.

"I think it was a little bit of a push, but I think Matt would say he could have kicked it higher," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's what happens sometimes, especially when you're kicking the ball into that wind. .. I sure wish we could have given the Giants a better football game.

"They were better than us today. We didn't do the things we needed to do to win this game, but I'm proud to be the coach of this team."

The Giants went right back to Jacobs following Fabian Washington's interception of an Eli Manning pass that was nullified due to a penalty. Three consecutive runs ended with him busting into the end zone for his second one-yard score.

"We knew it was going to be a heavyweight fight," Suggs said. "They got some shots in during the early rounds and they were able to sustain enough to win the fight. We respect them most definitely.

"They ran downhill. It wasn't like they beat us at the point of attack. They cut back. They broke some tackles. It wasn't Rex Ryan's fault. Once we cross that white line, it's on us."

The Ravens seemed to get caught out of position by overrunning plays, hurting their cause as much as being "outphysicaled," in cornerback Samari Rolle's appropriate words.

Harbaugh disagreed with that take, though.

"I'm not going to say they were more physical than us; I'm not going to concede that," Harbaugh said.

And Lewis thought it was a different issue altogether.

"We had problems with over pursuing," Lewis said. "That's something that we don't do, bottom line. We don't normally let backs get outside, and that's something that we pride ourselves in, but they were able to do it. I mean, there are always going to be days where you aren't great."

Baltimore entered the game allowing a league-low average of 65.4 rushing yards and 2.9 yards per carry. The Giants averaged 6.3 yards per carry.

"After the first couple of times, we were just like, 'How in the world?'" Pryce said. "At that point, it's like what else can go bad? Playing the champs, you had better come with your A-plus, plus game and we didn't do that."

No team had gained more than 76 rushing yards against Baltimore this season. The Giants topped that mark by 131 yards through their backs' combination of agility and strength.

"A lot of guys were over pursuing the play, and that's how they got backside plays," Ngata said. "We were so hyped up that we just needed to calm down and play our game. I think we figured it out too late. We just got to bounce back."

The loss snaps a four-game winning streak. It extends the Giants' winning streak to five games.

Trailing 20-0 by the second quarter following Manning's 1-yard pass to tight end Darcy Johnson behind Leonhard, the Ravens finally got on the scoreboard on the next drive with a 38-yard Stover field goal.

Giants cornerback Aaron Ross intercepted rookie quarterback Joe Flacco twice, including a 50-yard return for a touchdown in the third quarter off a pass that deflected off wide receiver Derrick Mason's body when he was hit from behind.

Flacco hadn't thrown an interception since a 31-3 loss to the Colts five games ago.

Flacco tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to fullback Le'Ron McClain in the third quarter to close the gap to 20-10. Flacco, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 164 yards, one score and two interceptions for a 58.1 quarterback rating, rushed for a team-high 57 yards as the Giants shut down the Baltimore running game.

However, Rolle's interception of Manning was reversed by an instant-replay review. On the next drive, Flacco was intercepted by Ross to seal the game. Lawrence Tynes hit a 19-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to put it even further out of reach.

It was a dominant running game that ultimately spelled the difference, though.

"Hell, yeah, we're going to take this game personally," defensive tackle Justin Bannan said. "If we didn't take it personally, it would mean that we didn't care. We've just got to fix the things that went wrong for us and not let a team run on us like this again."

The Giants ran the ball 18 times for 112 yards by halftime. It left the Ravens scratching their heads in disbelief.

"When they hit a big one, I'm sure it made us second-guess and gave them some confidence," Johnson said. "Normally, we come out and keep stuffing it. I don't know what the problem was.

"We feel like we're an elite team and an elite defense, one that has made improvements across the board. When you play a team like the Giants and play as poorly as we did, it's extremely disappointing."

The Ravens wanted to use the Giants as a barometer to gauge how far they had progressed from last year's 5-11 disaster. Now, they understand how much further they have to go as they'll try to regroup against the Philadelphia Eagles next week at M&T Bank Stadium.

"We just wanted to test ourselves and see how we play against some of the best teams," Ngata said. "This kind of sucks, but we have to move on and get ready for Philly. They've got a great running back in Brian Westbrook."

BALTIMORE RAVENS' REPORT CARD

Quarterback: C-minus

Although the deflected interception returned by Aaron Ross for a touchdown wasn't exactly Joe Flacco's fault and he scrambled for 57 yards to lead the Ravens in rushing and threw a touchdown pass, the rookie quarterback was far from sterling. He completed 20 of 33 passes for 164 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for a 58.1 quarterback rating. These were his first interceptions in the past five games.

Running back: D-minus

When your quarterback is your leading rusher, it's obviously not a good day. Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain combined for just 47 yards on 19 carries. McGahee looked sluggish.

Receiver: C-plus

Wide receiver Derrick Mason's gritty performance, catching seven passes for 82 yards despite a dislocated left shoulder that required a pain-killer,20headlined a nondescript passing game. Tight end Todd Heap and receiver Mark Clayton were non-factors downfield.

Offensive line: C-minus

Joe Flacco was only sacked once and hit three times as star defensive ends Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka were contained for the most part. Kiwanuka had a solid game rushing against a hobbled Jared Gaither with one sack, four tackles and two quarterback hits. There were virtually no holes opened, though, in the running game.

Defensive line: C-minus

They did a nice job of setting a wall inside, but didn't tackle well when Brandon Jacobs attacked the middle and that allowed him to cut back for big yardage. The Ravens are fortunate that Jacobs was eventually limited due to a sore knee.

Linebacker: D

Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs were guilty of overrunning plays and not wrapping up on tackles. In particular, Lewis kept trying to arm tackle Brandon Jacobs with predictably shoddy results. He should know better. Fullback Madison Hedgecock won several confrontations. Ahmad Bradshaw broke a 77-yard run.

Secondary: C

They weren't terrible against Eli Manning, intercepting him once and allowing one touchdown. Nor were they exceptional. The secondary didn't make a notable impact. Strong safety Jim Leonhard went backwards in tackles and allowed a touchdown pass. Tackling was poor overall.

Special teams: D-plus

Kicker Matt Stover had a 32-yard field goal attempt blocked, a momentum-changing play which set up the Giants' second touchdown. There were far too many penalties. Yamon Figurs fumbled, but it was recovered. He provided solid field position on four kickoff returns with a 25.5 average.


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