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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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Ravens tight end suspended a year or more for violating substance abuse policy

Ravens tight end suspended a year or more for violating substance abuse policy

The NFL announced today that tight end Darren Waller of the Baltimore Ravens would be suspended for a year or longer for his second violation of the substance abuse policy.

Waller was a 2015 sixth-round pick out of Georgia Tech who served a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season for a substance abuse violation. After returning from his suspension last year, he posted 10 catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role.

After his 2016 violation, he was quoted as saying [via Ravens.com]:

“There were other personal issues, and [marijuana] was the one thing I always turned to,” Waller said. “It was just about finding more positive outlets for me to do, like talking to people about it and things like that. I’m definitely at a better place with that now.”

Unfortunately for the Ravens, he will miss the 2017 season and potentially longer after the latest violation. It leaves the Ravens down two tight ends from last year after Dennis Pitta was released earlier this month after re-injuring his hip.

MORE RAVENS: Zach Orr considering coming out of retirement

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Former Raven Zach Orr considering NFL comeback after postive health prognosis

Former Raven Zach Orr considering NFL comeback after postive health prognosis

In January of 2017, former Ravens linebacker Zach Orr took the podium at the team's training facility alongside head coach John Harbaugh, GM Ozzie Newsome and defensive coordinator Dean Pees, to announce he would be retiring from football at the age of 24.

Why? Orr suffered a shoulder injury during their week 16 game against longtime rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, which shed light into a condition he's had since birth.

He had a routine MRI, but the Ravens training staff suggested a full body CAT scan as well. The CAT scan reveled Orr had a congenital back/spine condition where one of the upper vertebra isn't totally formed causing there to be an opening. Less than 1 percent of people are born with such a condition and he wasn't aware of it until he suffered this injury.

Doctors told Orr he was at risk of paralysis or even death if he played with such a condition. He also would have never been able to pass an NFL physical, ultimately forcing him to retire.

During his press conference, Orr said this,

"If there's some miracle way where I can play the game, I promise I'd be the first one to grab my cleats again, start back training and try to find a way to get back out there," Orr said.

Well, fast forward to today and it seems that miracle may have happened.

NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo told Good Morning Football that after getting a second opinion from doctors, and receiving positive news, Orr is considering a return to the NFL.

"I had my mind made up. I was like man, the doctors told me I was done. This is a serious issue. So I'm going to leave it alone. But I just kept hearing that from multiple people and some were telling me to just go check out and seek out some more opinions and things like that and come to find out my condition, it is rare – .01 percent of the people have what I have – but there's no actual evidence or facts that I'm at a higher risk than any other player. And it's actually been documented that a college player who had the exact same thing that I have that returned to play with no problems."

The doctors' real concerns would be if someone with Orr's spinal condition played with a herniated disk. He did suffer from herniated disks last season, but that injury has since diminished. 

MORE RAVENS: 2017 PRESEASON SCHEDULE

If Orr does decide to get back into the NFL, getting signed could be pretty easy. 

When he announced his retirement, he never filed for retirement papers and the Ravens never placed him on their reserve/retired list because they never thought he would play again.

Because of this, Orr is considered an unrestricted free agent and can sign with a team right away. 

Orr had his best season in 2016, where he lead the Ravens in tackles with 133. It's been reported that eight teams have reached out to the linebacker since his announcement and that he will be meeting with the Lions on Thursday.