Ravens’ offense returns to early season form

The Ravens’ defense played well in keeping Eli Manning from getting going, limiting the offense to 186 yards. Baltimore’s special teams did its part, too, with four Justin Tucker field goals.

But above all, the offense carried the Ravens to the end of their slide with a season-best performance that reminded folks why the team began the year so well.

The Ravens racked up season highs of 533 total yards and 224 on the ground. It was the third-most total yards ever gained by the Ravens in a single game. They also dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 39:21 while the Giants had it for 20:39. They also went 11-for-18 on third down.

It was the second time Baltimore eclipsed 500 yards this season - a Week 3 win over the Patriots being the other - and marked the fifth time in eight home games that the team surpassed 400 yards.

Quarterback Joe Flacco shouldered a lot of the blame for the unit’s inconsistency in recent weeks.

“When you lose three straight, people look at the quarterback, and that’s part of our job,” Flacco said. “We believe we’re this kind of team, and we’re really going to see if we are. I think that we showed ourselves and we showed people today that we are that kind of team. We’re here to stay and we just have to do all we can to get better, play like this, and even get better than this throughout the remaining weeks.”

Flacco had arguably his best performance of the season - with plenty of thanks going to an offensive line that kept him upright to the tune of zero sacks against. Flacco went 25-for-36 for 309 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and no interceptions.

He finished with his fifth-best quarterback rating of the year. It was quite a turnaround from the slump which had outsiders questioning whether Flacco was the right person to be the Ravens’ franchise quarterback going forward.

Coach John Harbaugh was glad to see Flacco rebound after failing to pass for 300 yards in each of the last three games and fumbling the ball in five consecutive contests.

“I think it says that he’s a very good quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “It also says that he has a lot of determination, a lot of thick skin, skin like an armadillo. You’ve got to have it, no more so than at the quarterback position.

“(I am) proud of Joe, always have been. I think we just keep building on this performance. The guy is a heck of a player and he played really well today.”

Flacco spread the ball around well with four different players finishing with at least four receptions and at least 50 receiving yards - Anquan Boldin (seven catches, 93 yards), Ray Rice (six, 51), Torrey Smith (five, 88) and Dennis Pitta (four, 56).

The running game perhaps trumped that with the Ravens having two runners eclipsing 100 yards.

Rookie Bernard Pierce reached triple digits for the first time in his career, finishing with 123 yards on 14 carries with the big gain being a 78-yarder. Rice added 107 yards on 24 carries.

It marked the first time since 2008 that the Ravens had two players run for at least 100 yards in the same game.

Rice was especially impressed with his backfield-mate.

“I joked with him, I said, ‘We’ve got one thing in common. We do get caught from behind,’” Rice said, referring to Pierce’s 78-yard run that ended at the Giants’ 1. “We’ve got two different running styles, but it was great to see (him) go over 100. He’s definitely a great complement to me. He’s a student of the game, and he’s only going to get better.”

Rice said the key for the squad was twofold - a quick start and something more intangible that was absent during the three-game skid.

“I just think we had a little bit more urgency because we knew what was at stake,” Rice said. “This was a championship game for us. Next week, we understand what that game is, but this was the championship for us. This was, you know what, solidify the home playoff game, back-to-back division champs. That’s huge around here.

“We’ll humble ourselves, we’ll enjoy this win and we’ll get back to work on Cincinnati because obviously they’re our next opponent, but playoff football essentially started today.”