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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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Five observations from Day 1 of Ravens training camp

Five observations from Day 1 of Ravens training camp

OWINGS MILLS – Here are five observations from Day 1 of Ravens’ training camp:

1. Joe Flacco didn’t look like someone who had not practiced since November.

First of all, there is nothing wrong with Flacco’s arm. Early in drills, he effortlessly floated a long pass to rookie Chris Moore on a ball that traveled at least 55 yards in the air. Secondly, Flacco moved well wearing a brace on his surgically-repaired left knee, moving out of the pocket several times without any sign of favoring the injury. It remains to be seen if Flacco feels discomfort after several days of practice, and of course, he is not taking any hits. But this was a good first step.

“It felt really good to be out there,” Flacco said in quotes provided by the team. “I wasn’t as efficient as I’d like to be, but I felt comfortable. I just need to throw it a little better and complete some more passes.”

2. Veteran tight end Ben Watson didn’t have the greatest practice.

The usually sure-handed Watson dropped two passes early. Maybe Watson was nervous in his first practice with Flacco, or maybe he was adjusting to the pace of Flacco’s throws. But Watson will be looking to bounce back quickly, competing for playing time at tight end with Crockett Gillmore, Dennis Pitta, and Maxx Williams.

3. The starter at inside linebacker could be rookie Kamalei Correa.

While Correa is taking reps both outside and inside, the Ravens are searching for a starter at inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley. If Correa wins the starting job, it means the Ravens’ top two picks, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and Correa, could be starters from Week 1.

4. Pitta looks like Pitta, running patterns and making catches.

Fans still love Pitta, and he received a huge ovation whenever he made a catch. Pitta’s attempt to come back from his second major hip injury is a feel-good story and people are rooting for him.  However, a major test for Pitta will come Saturday when the Ravens put on pads for the first time.

5. John Urschel could be the starter at left guard, but he is also taking reps at center.

Urschel is the favorite to replace Kelechi Osemele as the starting left guard. However, Urschel’s best position may be center. If anything happens to starting center Jeremy Zuttah, the Ravens could shift Urschel to center and play either Ryan Jensen or rookie Alex Lewis at left guard.

RELATED: STANLEY'S ROOKIE SHOW PERFORMANCE WAS ONE FOR THE AGES

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Ronnie Stanley sings 'Ignition Remix' in chicken suit for his teammates

Ronnie Stanley sings 'Ignition Remix' in chicken suit for his teammates

OWINGS MILLS - When the Ravens drafted left tackle Ronnie Stanley, he never expected to sing in front of teammates wearing a chicken suit.

Welcome to the Ravens, and to the traditional rookie talent contest. Stanley led off this year’s draft class as the first-round pick, and apparently, he was a hit. The chicken suit was courtesy of wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who purchased it for Stanley.

Where exactly do you find a chicken suit that fits somebody 6-foot-6, 320 pounds? But Smith found one. If you are a smart rookie, you don’t say no to Steve Smith. That left Stanley with no choice but to perform wearing the suit.

Stanley chose the R. Kelly song “Ignition Remix” for his selection.

“I knew it was crowd pleaser,” Stanley said after Thursday’s practice. “I know every word to the song. That was the song I picked, so I was practicing all throughout this break that we had.”

Under the circumstances, Stanley felt he did well.

 “I actually didn’t know about the chicken suit until yesterday,” Stanley said. “I did what I had to do. I knew since I was going first, I had to set the tone. That was the first time I sang in a chicken suit.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was impressed.

“He did a great job and we had fun,” Harbaugh said. “It’s nice when your first-round pick, kind of the leader of the rookie class, is able to step up and make a statement about that. I can fit in, so to speak.”

No word on if Stanley plans to go on tour after the season.

RELATED: A FEW RAVENS RUNNING BACKS ARE DINGED UP

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Kenneth Dixon hobbled, Lorenzo Taliaferro placed on PUP list

Kenneth Dixon hobbled, Lorenzo Taliaferro placed on PUP list

OWINGS MILLS -- The Ravens deep running back group grew a little thinner – at least temporarily – on Thursday as rookie Kenneth Dixon left the first training camp practice after tweaking his left knee and Lorenzo Taliaferro was placed on the preseason physically-unable-to-perform list with a lingering foot injury.

Dixon had been very active in the noncontact practice, especially as a pass catcher. But as he caught one pass near the left sideline in an 11-on-11 drill, he was inadvertently bumped out of bounds by linebacker Patrick Onwauasor and fell hard to the ground. Dixon was slow to get up and was ultimately helped off the field by Justin Forsett and a trainer.

Dixon has “a slight thing with the knee,” coach John Harbaugh said after practice. “He should be fine.”

Taliaferro sustained a foot injury last year and had surgery that ultimately ended his season in October.

"Not that there's a big issue with it," Harbaugh said of Taliaferro's foot, "but it's not quite there yet."

Entering his third season, Taliaferro is fighting for a roster spot after missing 16 of 32 games over his first two seasons. Forsett, Buck Allen and Dixon all appear to be locks to make the team, leaving Taliaferro competing for a potential fourth running spot with Terrance West and perhaps Trent Richardson, though he, too, is injured.

Taliaferro joins five other Ravens who had previously been placed on the preseason PUP list – receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, and Richardson.

Players can be activated from the PUP list and return to practice at any time during training camp. If they begin the regular season on the PUP list, they must sit out the first six games.

In addition to Taliaferro’s absence, three players sat out Thursday's practice because they haven’t passed the conditioning test: wide receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Jerraud Powers and newly signed wide receiver Dobson Collins.

RELATED: FLACCO ISN'T WORRIED ABOUT INJURIES AFFECTING HIS POST NFL LIFE