Entertaining first half ends with Ravens up 17-14 (Broncos up 49-27)

The Ravens’ final drive of the opening half produced three points instead of seven, but still ended with Baltimore headed to the locker room ahead 17-14.

The 13-play, 77-yard possession was capped by Justin Tucker’s 25-yard field goal with 7 seconds to go in the first half. But it was oh so close to being a seven-point advantage when Joe Flacco’s well-placed pass went off Dallas Clark’s hands inside the 5 to bring up fourth down.

An entertaining first half of football, following a 33-minute delay because of lightning, saw the Ravens dominate time of possession (19:10 to 10:43) and win the yardage battle (229-174). But Baltimore leads by just three points.

With little pressure in his face, Flacco is having a fine night. So far, he’s 18-for-30 for 183 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Ray Rice had 10 rushes for 38 yards and a score, as well as four catches for 16 yards.

Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Clark each have three receptions while Marlon Brown has two.

The Ravens have been hit with a couple of injuries already, as Jones is likely done for the night with a sprained knee and right tackle Michael Oher might be finished with a sprained ankle.

Peyton Manning is leading the Broncos by going 11-for-19 for 160 yards and two touchdown passes, both to tight end Julius Thomas.

Neither team has established much of a ground game, but they haven’t had to in this one. Perhaps the second half has more of the same in store for what coach John Harbaugh called a budding rivalry.

Update: That didn’t last long.

On the first drive of the second half, the Broncos went 80 yards in six plays to take their first lead - 21-17 on a beautiful 28-yard pass from Manning to Andre Caldwell.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was beaten on the play, which involved a fingertips, bobbled catch by Caldwell as he was striding into the end zone. Smith also missed a tackle on a 34-yard catch by Demaryius Thomas on the drive.

That could have been avoided, however, if the Ravens challenged the previous play where replays clearly showed a 10-yard completion to Wes Welker hitting the ground. Coach John Harbaugh chose not to challenge and Denver went on to take the lead.

Update II: The third quarter isn’t even five minutes old and the Broncos have already put up 14 points to turn a three-point deficit into a 28-17 lead.

The latest score came as a result of a blocked punt that gave Denver the ball at the Ravens’ 10-yard line. Manning completed two passes to Welker for 10 yards, with the second being a 5-yard touchdown pass. Manning has now thrown for four touchdowns and there’s plenty of time for him to add more.

Baltimore needs something positive to happen right now before things get out of hand.

Update III: It’s officially out of hand.

Manning has passed for 292 yards, a ridiculous five touchdowns and no picks to give the Broncos a 35-17 advantage. Manning found Welker again for Denver’s latest score, this time connecting for a 2-yard touchdown.

Update IV:
Manning has passed for six touchdowns while Flacco has two touchdown throws and two picks.

With less than eight minutes to go, the Broncos lead 42-24. Will that be enough or is there another Mile High miracle ahead?

Update V: Tucker starts to chip away, using a 30-yard field goal to trim the Broncos’ lead with 5:33 remaining.

Update VI: Manning just completed a 78-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to make it 49-27 Denver.

Manning has tied an NFL record with his seventh touchdown pass of the game. He’s the sixth in NFL history and first since Joe Kapp in 1969 to accomplish the feat.

Not a good start for the Ravens’ new-look defense.