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Broncos rout Ravens 34-17 for 9th straight win

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Broncos rout Ravens 34-17 for 9th straight win

BALTIMORE (AP) The Denver Broncos are gathering momentum and confidence as they head toward another trip to the playoffs.

And the Baltimore Ravens? Well, after three straight defeats, they're running out of time to right themselves as they stagger to the finish of what was once a very promising regular season.

The Broncos (11-3) rolled to their ninth straight victory Sunday, using a 98-yard interception return by Chris Harris to build a 17-point halftime lead en route to a surprisingly easy 34-17 victory.

The win was especially satisfying for the Broncos because it came without Peyton Manning putting up spectacular numbers. Manning went 17 for 28 for 204 yards and a touchdown.

The defense, however, dominated a Baltimore attack run by Jim Caldwell, whose debut as an NFL offensive coordinator was a dud. The Ravens finished with 56 yards rushing, including a meager 38 from Ray Rice on 12 carries.

``We shut the run down,'' nose tackle Justin Bannan said. ``We set the tone in the first half and kind of went from there.''

This was supposed to be a test for Denver, which was 0-5 in Baltimore and was eager to defeat a quality opponent on the road. Given the result, the Broncos aced the exam.

``To come in here and get a win like this against the Baltimore Ravens, that doesn't happen,'' Bannan said. ``I'm very proud of our team.''

The biggest play of the game was turned in by Harris, whose pivotal interception return occurred in the closing seconds of the first half. At the time, the Ravens (9-5) appeared poised to close to 10-7. Instead, Baltimore left the field at halftime down by 17.

Game over.

``You come to the Ravens' house and beat them handily, it's definitely a statement game,'' Harris said. ``We definitely wanted to show to everybody that we're an elite team.''

And what are the Ravens? After a 9-2 start, Baltimore has lost three straight overall for the first time since 2009 and two in a row at home for the first time since December 2007.

The Ravens clinched a playoff berth as a wild-card team when Pittsburgh lost to Dallas on Sunday night. Baltimore hopes to begin its fifth straight postseason run as AFC North champions, a feat that can be accomplished with one win in the last two games.

For that to happen, the Ravens must improve.

``We either put it on our shoulders, get it fixed, or we'll weed ourselves out like the other teams in the league,'' Rice said.

The Ravens' offense was playing its first game under Caldwell, who replaced the fired Cam Cameron. Baltimore sputtered in the first half, gaining only 119 yards and committing two turnovers that led to 10 Denver points.

It was 31-3 in the fourth quarter before Flacco threw touchdown passes of 31 and 61 yards to tight end Dennis Pitta. Flacco went 20 for 40 for 254 yards, lost a fumble and threw an interception.

``All we can do is put this one behind us and realize what we have ahead of us,'' Pitta said. ``We still have an opportunity to win the division. We've just got to get back to work. We're going to get it done.''

Perhaps, but a rash of injuries and defeats isn't doing much for the team's confidence.

``We're a 9-5 football team and we feel like we're 0-14 right now,'' Flacco said.

Baltimore's previous two defeats were by three points apiece. This one wasn't even close, and the stadium was near empty in the middle of the fourth quarter.

``As a player, I am embarrassed for our city,'' safety Ed Reed said.

Denver, on the other hand, hasn't lost since Oct. 7, at New England. The AFC West champions, who can still capture the top seed in the conference, finish with home games against Cleveland and Kansas City.

``We just try to get better every week,'' coach John Fox insisted. ``We're not measuring ourselves right now. We need to measure ourselves at the end to be the best.''

Baltimore's first offensive series under Caldwell lasted three plays and ended as Flacco fumbled on a third-and-1 plunge and the Broncos recovered at the Denver 47, which led to a 27-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

In the first quarter, Baltimore totaled 21 yards on 12 plays, punted three times and lost a fumble.

Denver went up 10-0 when Jacob Hester ran in from the 1 to cap an 11-play, 78-yard drive. Baltimore answered with three more unproductive plays before punting. On their fifth drive, the Ravens finally got their initial first down - on a 14-yard run by Bernard Pierce with eight minutes left in the half.

Pierce eventually left the game with a concussion, as did wide receiver Torrey Smith, who hit his head after attempting to make a leaping catch near the sideline in the third quarter.

Denver pulled away with two third-quarter touchdowns. Manning threw a 51-yard scoring pass to Eric Decker, and after the Ravens went three-and-out, Knowshon Moreno ended a 39-yard drive with a 6-yard run to make it 31-3.

Decker caught eight passes for 133 yards and Moreno finished with 118 yards rushing on 22 carries.

NOTES: Rice passed 1,000 yards rushing for a fourth straight season. ... Terrell Suggs returned for Baltimore after missing one game with a torn biceps and made one tackle. ... Hester's score was the second rushing touchdown of his career and the first since his rookie season in 2008. ... Pitta had seven catches for 125 yards.

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Proposed NFL rule change would eliminate Ravens' intentional holding strategy

Proposed NFL rule change would eliminate Ravens' intentional holding strategy

BY TYLER BYRUM, @theTylerByrum

It made everyone do a double-take, then it made perfect sense to non-Cincinnati and non-Pittsburgh fans.

Back in Week 12 when the Baltimore Ravens held off the Cincinnati Bengals 19-14, it wasn't a single touchdown that made national headlines. Rather it was a game ending safety that cut a seven-point deficit to only five. 

On the final play, numerous Ravens players held the opposing Bengals, who were setting up to receive punt, with 11 seconds left on the clock. Punter Sam Koch, just sat back, draining the clock before finally running out the back of the end zone with the clock at zero. 

SEE LINK FOR FULL RULE EXPLANATION

Thursday it was proposed to the NFL's Competition Committee to make plays like this illegal. 

While it may be considered unfair to some, making this new rule would simply add to an already expanding rule book and only be used for a select handful of plays a year, maybe. 

Eliminating cleverness of coaches that are well versed in the NFL rule book, should not be the approach of the of rule adaptations. There is no impact on player safety nor does it make the game 'more watchable' (like the extra-point rule).

Not only that, but the new proposed rule just leaves another set of loopholes for coaches to take advantage of at the end of a game. What if team trying to score on the last play commits two offensive penalties just to get another shot at the endzone?

But before making a massive overhaul to fix all of the loopholes in the NFL rule book, can we establish what a catch is first?

MORE RAVENS: Tony Jefferson used Madden to make free agency decision

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Ravens mock draft roundup: Mike Williams continues to pop up

Ravens mock draft roundup: Mike Williams continues to pop up

Just over a month away from the NFL Draft, mock drafts across sport media sites are beginning to narrow in on players that fit specifically into blaring holes on a team's roster.

As the first wave of free agency has come through, a majority of the top names at each position has been snatched up. While the Baltimore Ravens can still sign a handful of free agents on the open market, getting backup or a young star in a key position can be a the primary goal. 

Here's a look at who some of the various analysts have the Ravens taking with their No. 16 pick in the first round. The general consensus is help in the defensive secondary and at the wide receiver position.

DE Taco Charlton, Michigan, Ben Standig, CSN-Mid Atlantic

Standing: At some point the Ravens must find an edge pass rushing replacement for Terrell Suggs. Charlton might be better stopping the run than rushing the passer right now and yet he had nine sacks in 10 regular season games.  

SEE STANDIG'S FULL 2017 MOCK DRAFT

SS Jabrill Peppers, Michigan, Rob Rang, CBS Sports

Rang: With starting safety Matt Elam a pending free agent and Eric Weddle poised to enter his 11th NFL season, the Ravens may very well be looking for help in the secondary in the 2017 draft. Peppers starred as a linebacker in 2016 but possesses the agility and speed to handle coverage.

WR Mike Williams, Clemson, Dane Brugler, CBS Sports

Brugler: The Ravens have plenty of speed at receiver, but only average size. Williams has only average speed, but his body control, catch radius and overall size are where he shines.

WR John Ross, Washington, Bucky Brooks, NFL.com

Brooks: An electric playmaker with speed to burn would be a welcome addition to an offense that wants to play long ball with Joe Flacco at quarterback.

DE Charles Harris, Missouri, Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com

Jeremiah: Harris is a very productive edge rusher who is plenty athletic enough to drop in coverage if needed.

WR Mike Williams, Clemson, Chris Burke, SI.com

Burke: Baltimore has two receivers, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, who can scorch defenses deep. They need a physical, intermediate threat. Check.

CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama, Peter Schragers, FOX Sports

Schragers: I seem to be a lot higher on Humphrey than other mock draft pundits. Oh well. I’ll ride with the star of the Alabama defensive backfield from last season. The son of NFL running back Bobby Humphrey, he was a stud at the well-known Hoover High and a prime recruit of Nick Saban’s. An opportunistic player who started for two seasons in Tuscaloosa, Humphrey forced three fumbles and intercepted two passes in 2016. Baltimore already has added Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson to its defensive backfield but might not be done.

RELATED: REDSKINS MOCK DRAFT ROUNDUP