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Ravens ride offense to division title

BALTIMORE - Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce burst through a gaping hole in the middle of the New York Giants' defensive line, exploding untouched down the right sideline before finally being pushed out of bounds at the Giants' 1-yard line following a 78-yard gain.

The run served as an exclamation point for a virtually flawless performance from the Ravens' offense amid Sunday's 33-14 victory against New York that clinched a second straight AFC North title for Baltimore.

For as much as went awry for the offense a week earlier, the Ravens could seemingly do no wrong against the Giants.

They established a new season-high for yards, controlled the ball for nearly 40 minutes, got more than 300 yards out of their passing game, got more than 200 yards out of their running game and held a potent Giants pass rush without a single sack. They even converted two 3rd-and-19s and, at one point, even successfully ran the option with Flacco, a quarterback not typically thought of for his ability outside the pocket.

It was an offensive performance that head coach John Harbaugh said he was "very pleased" with.

"Offensively, we got first downs. We got started," Harbaugh said. "If we get started, we feel like we can build on that. It's hard to get going if you can't get started. Our guys did a great job of getting started."

Just a week earlier, getting started was something the offense had trouble trying to do.

The Ravens' offensive unit was limited to just 278 yards amid the team's 34-17 loss to the Broncos, a game during which Baltimore trailed 31-3 prior to scoring two late touchdowns.

Flacco struggled, the offensive line had problems creating running lanes against a stout Denver front seven and the Ravens went scoreless on 10 of their first 11 possessions.

It was a different story Sunday.

In its second game under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, Baltimore racked up 533 yards of total offense and 25 first downs. Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns and the duo of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce combined for 230 yards on the ground.

"I think we were able to hit some big plays early on and get some other consistent plays in there," Flacco said. "I think those plays kind of carried us and gave us a little jolt and allowed us to run our offense pretty effectively today and build our confidence."

Baltimore scored points on seven of its first nine possessions, including each of its first two as it built an early 14-0 lead.

Flacco connected with Rice for a 27-yard scoring pass with just more than a minute remaining in the second quarter to push the Ravens' lead to 27-7 heading into the half.

"The whole offense played well," Baltimore safety Ed Reed said. "When they are clicking like that, and we have control in the game - controlling the time of possession - or what we have and Joe is on point with the ball, just getting it to the playmakers, you see what we can do as a team."

The game also served as a bounce-back of sorts for the offense. Prior to Sunday, the Ravens had been limited to 316 yards of total offense or less in seven of its previous 10 games, including the loss to the Broncos within which they had gained just 23 yards through the midpoint of the second quarter.

"Our offense, we just wanted to play consistent, and the way we played today is a building point," Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson said. "This feels really good. ... This shows what we're capable of. The sky's the limit. We feel like had a pretty good day, but we feel like we can do even better."

Flacco completed 25 of his 36 attempts, and the scoring pass to Rice was one of five Flacco completions that went for a gain of 21 yards or longer.

Rice finished with 158 yards from scrimmage - 107 rushing and 51 receiving - and Pierce had a career-high 123 yards on 14 carries.

"We were just clicking on all cylinders," fullback Vonta Leach said. "Joe came back and had a big game for us, our offensive line protected and we did a good job getting the running backs to the second level, so it was just an all-around good performance for the offense. ... The offense has been taking a lot of criticism lately, but we work so hard during the week and for us to put it all together with a performance like this it feels really good."

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