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One Manning Down, One to Go

Ravens Drub Eli, Peyton Is Next: Ravens 37, Giants 14

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2004; Page D01

BALTIMORE, Dec. 12 -- The Baltimore Ravens' defense could be pleased with the way it thoroughly tormented New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, forcing the rookie into three turnovers and a passer rating of zero in the Ravens' 37-14 win at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon. But the satisfaction won't last long -- next week, the Ravens have to face Eli's big brother.

Baltimore (8-5) travels to Indianapolis on Sunday night and will have to contend with quarterback Peyton Manning, who needs only two touchdown passes to tie Dan Marino's 20-year-old record of 48 touchdown passes in a season. Playing Peyton Manning and the Colts (10-3), who wrapped up the AFC South title Sunday, is a far greater challenge than facing Eli Manning and the Giants (5-8), who lost their sixth straight.

Giants' Eli Manning (4 of 18 for 27 yards) finishes with a QB rating of 0.0. (Chris Gardner -- AP)

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Philadelphia 17, Washington 14
Baltimore 37, N.Y. Giants 14
Atlanta 35, Oakland 10
New Orleans 27, Dallas 13
Buffalo 37, Cleveland 7
Indianapolis 23, Houston 14
Jacksonville 22, Chicago 3
New England 35, Cincinnati 28
Seattle 27, Minnesota 23
Pittsburgh 17, N.Y. Jets 6
Denver 20, Miami 17
Green Bay 16, Detroit 13
Carolina 20, St. Louis 7
San Francisco 31, Arizona 28 (OT)
San Diego 31, Tampa Bay 24

Kansas City 49, Tennessee 38

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Still, the way the Ravens dominated New York on Sunday leaves them feeling good about making a run at the AFC wild card (the Pittsburgh Steelers won the AFC North title with their 17-6 win over the New York Jets).

"It's huge. This is a game of momentum," defensive end Anthony Weaver said. "Anytime you go out there and win a game like this, in the fashion we did, it can do nothing but help you. And you know Peyton is going to be upset after the way we treated his brother today."

Baltimore, which snapped a two-game losing streak, forced six turnovers, which tied a team record. Second-year quarterback Kyle Boller played well, and the Ravens' running game continued to produce.

Perhaps most significantly, for the first time this season, the Ravens had their entire complement of starters. Running back Jamal Lewis, who had missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, started and carried the ball eight times for 32 yards. Tight end Todd Heap was at full speed in his second game back after missing nine with a sprained ankle. Cornerback Deion Sanders played for the first time in a month.

"I'm hoping that was a good warmup game for everybody to get back into the swing of things, to get that chemistry down," safety Ed Reed said. "It's a must win from here on out."

Backup running back Chester Taylor had his second consecutive 100-yard game, rushing for 104 yards on 25 carries. Boller completed 18 of 34 passes for 219 yards and finished with a passer rating of 112.3, a career best. He also threw a career-high four touchdown passes, two each to rookie wide receiver Clarence Moore and Heap. On three of the four touchdowns, Boller simply lobbed the ball to a spot where only the 6-foot-6 Moore or the 6-5 Heap could get it, and in each case, the bigger Raven came down with the pass.

Boller did make one glaring mistake, fumbling when he was sacked late in the first half. New York defensive end Osi Umenyiora scooped up the loose ball and ran it back 50 yards for a touchdown. Boller recovered nicely, however, by leading a 73-yard scoring drive that was punctuated by Moore's eight-yard touchdown catch.

"A little bit of adversity, I think we did a good job of handling it," Boller said. "You give up seven points, and you kind of feel bad because the defense was going to probably shut them out."

Manning, the top pick of the 2004 draft, looked utterly lost in his fourth start. He completed only 4 of 18 passes for 27 yards, was intercepted twice and finished with a passer rating of zero. He was sacked twice and fumbled once.

By the time Kurt Warner -- the veteran who was benched in favor of Manning in mid-November -- entered the game in the fourth quarter, most of the 69,856 in attendance had left. Warner completed 6 of 9 passes for 127 yards and led the Giants to their only offensive touchdown, a one-yard run by Tiki Barber. After the game, New York Coach Tom Coughlin reiterated that Manning is the Giants' starter.

"They did a good job of running around and trying to confuse me," Manning said of the Ravens' defense. "I have to continue to learn from that. . . . I have to play better and obviously, Coach Coughlin is with me and he understands that it's rough now for rookie quarterbacks."

The Giants fumbled away the opening kickoff, and that was an indication of what was to come. New York's first drive ended with Barber fumbling on his own 30-yard line, and Manning was intercepted by Baxter on the first play of the Giants' next drive. Reed picked off Manning's final pass of the first half, his eighth interception of the season (a franchise record) and the 20th of his career (which ties the franchise record).

All in all, the Ravens turned four of the six turnovers into 20 points. Through the first three quarters, Baltimore built a 37-7 lead as it held the Giants to 55 yards of total offense on 32 plays (a meager 1.7 yards per play). It was the type of dominating performance the defense needed, particularly after suffering a fourth-quarter meltdown in last week's 27-26 loss to Cincinnati.

"The overall performance of the game certainly gets us much closer to being on track after last week's loss," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "It will be a huge test going to play Peyton, and we're all looking forward to it. Our guys will be excited about the challenge. Obviously, he's better than his brother at this point."

Indeed, Peyton Manning is completing 69 percent of his passes, has passed for 3,919 yards and 46 touchdowns, and has only nine interceptions. Manning has thrown for more than one touchdown in 13 straight games, an NFL record. He threw two touchdown passes as the Colts (10-3) beat Houston, 23-14, on Sunday.

"Right now, he's probably the NFL MVP," Weaver said. "The season he's been having is going to present a challenge for us. At the same time, we've got to accept that and try to beat a top-notch team."

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