Ray Rice won’t soon forget the outstanding game he had against the defending Super Bowl champions.
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Neither will his mother.
Rice ran for 153 yards, caught five passes for 80 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead the Baltimore Ravens over the New Orleans Saints 30-24 on Sunday.
”I laid my shoes over there,” Rice said afterward. ”I’m going to give them to my mom for Christmas. I’m going to sign them and give them to her on top of her other gifts.”
In a game that had significant playoff ramifications for both teams, the Ravens (10-4) used a time-tested recipe to end the six-game winning streak of the Saints (10-4).
On offense, Baltimore scrapped its high-powered passing game in favor of running the ball. And the defense, which had blown eight fourth-quarter leads, banded together to make sure it didn’t happen again.
”I saw the game plan. I knew we were going to run the ball today,” said Rice, who moved over 1,000 yards rushing for a second straight season.
Coming in, Rice did not have a run of more than 30 yards and reached the 100-yard mark only once. Against the Saints, he peeled off a 50-yard run in the fourth quarter and finished with his most yards rushing since a 154-yard effort on Nov. 2, 2009, at Cleveland.
”We knew coming in that they were going to try to protect the football, try to run the ball. We just couldn’t stop it,” New Orleans linebacker Malcolm Jenkins said.
The Baltimore defense did its part, limiting the Saints to 27 yards rushing and stopping New Orleans on its final two possessions.
”I think everybody on our defense was thinking, ‘We can’t let this one go,”’ Ravens tackle Haloti Ngata said. ”Throughout this year, we’ve always let teams finish us off instead of us getting off the field and letting our offense finish the game. It just felt great to have our defense stop a great offense like that.”
With the score 27-24 and the Saints facing a fourth-and-8 on their own 17, Ngata batted a pass thrown by Drew Brees and Cory Redding got the interception to clinch the victory. A field goal by Billy Cundiff created the final cushion.
Brees went 29 for 46 for 267 yards and brought the Saints back from a 21-7 deficit. He threw two touchdown passes to tight end Jimmy Graham and another to wide receiver Lance Moore, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Saints from losing for the first time since Oct. 24.
It was the first time in six games that New Orleans failed to score at least 30 points.
”I thought we did some good things today; we just didn’t do enough,” Brees said. ”From a confidence standpoint, it’s unwavering for us. We’re as confident as any team out there and we know how good we can be and how great we can be.”
Brees went over 4,000 yards passing for the fifth consecutive season, a feat performed previously by only Peyton Manning.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP was good, but also lucky. Brees fumbled twice during a third-quarter drive of 20 yards, but the Saints recovered the loose ball on each occasion before Garrett Hartley kicked a 47-yard field goal to cut Baltimore’s lead to 21-17.
The Ravens then got a first-and-goal at the New Orleans 5 before Le’Ron McClain dropped a potential touchdown pass and Joe Flacco was sacked. So Cundiff kicked a field goal to restore the seven-point cushion.
New Orleans pulled even at 24 with 11:34 left when Moore made a sensational catch of a deflected pass in the back left corner of the end zone. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh challenged the call to no avail.
The back-and-forth duel continued when Rice ripped off a 50-yard run to set up a 32-yard field goal that made it 27-24 with 10:03 to go.
This time, the Ravens made the advantage stand up.
”It just don’t get no better,” Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis said. ”This team has been through so much. We’ve done been through every up, every down, every peak, every valley. We knew this was the defending champs coming in here.”
The champs stumbled in this one, but remain upbeat.
”Everything is ahead of us,” safety Darren Sharper said. ”If we win the next two games, we are in good position. We just need to come back from today. This was a tough loss to a tough team.”
Notes: Ravens LB Jarrett Johnson played in his 111th consecutive game, trying the franchise record set by LB Peter Boulware. … Saints CB Jabari Greer left with a knee injury. … Ravens KR David Reed left in the first half with a concussion. … Flacco has 23 TD passes, a new single-season career high.