Ravens hoping for different result against Broncos

OWINGS MILLS - The offense was limited to one of its lowest outputs of the season. The defense allowed touchdowns on each of its first two series of the second half. And they faced a 31-3 fourth quarter deficit prior to mounting two late scoring drives.

Not much went right for the Baltimore Ravens amid their December loss to the Denver Broncos.

And really - regardless of any questions surrounding the quality of their competition - it's been tough sledding for each of the Broncos' 11 opponents since the middle of October.

Denver's won 11 straight games - with its 34-17 win against Baltimore Dec. 16 being one of seven victories during that span by a double-digit margin.

The Broncos' Peyton Manning led-offense ranked second in the NFL in scoring and second in the AFC in passing offense while their Von Miller and Champ Bailey-led defense tied for the league-lead in sacks and ranked third in the NFL against both the run and the pass.

The Ravens travel to face Denver in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs Saturday.

"They are a very well-rounded football team," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "They are one of the most complete teams in the league. ... It's a really good football team."

The Ravens' defense actually played well early during the first meeting with the Broncos - forcing punts on five of Denver's seven first half possessions - but surrendered touchdowns on the Broncos' first two possessions of the second half.

Manning threw for 191 yards and a touchdown through the first three quarters and running back Knowshon Moreno finished with 115 yards and a score on the ground and averaged more than five yards per rushing attempt.

Manning passed for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns during the regular season in guiding a Broncos attack that's scored 31 points or more in nine of the team's last 11 games.

Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (94 catches, 1,434 yards, 10 TDs) and Eric Decker (85 catches, 1,064 yards, 13 TDs) each eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards. Moreno rushed for 381 yards and two scores in Denver's last four games. And the Broncos' offensive line yielded the fewest sacks in the AFC (21) during the regular season.

Baltimore held the Indianapolis Colts without a touchdown during Sunday's 24-9 wild-card victory - and it allowed the fourth-fewest yards per game during the last four weeks of the regular season (299.0) - but it finished the regular season ranked just 17th out of the NFL's 32 teams in total defense, 17th in pass defense and 20th in rush defense.

"Obviously, [Denver's] offense is clicking on all cylinders," Harbaugh said. "They can run it, and they can throw it. They have a premier quarterback. They have playmakers outside. ... And the offensive line is really solid, really good."

Added defensive lineman Haloti Ngata: "[It'll] definitely [be] a great challenge. ... But if we can do our job, do a lot of studying, and get a great week of practice in, then we can go in there and get a win."

But the Ravens will also need a better effort from their offense than what they got against the Broncos in December.

Joe Flacco threw two late scoring passes after Baltimore already trailed by four touchdowns, but he was just 16-of-34 for 148 yards with a fumble and an interception during the first three quarters.

The Ravens finished the game with just 278 yards of total offense, their third-lowest output of the season, and actually had just 34 yards through their first six offensive possessions.

But Flacco and the offense have fared better since that matchup. Baltimore rested most of its offensive starters during its regular season finale, but it posted a season-high 533 yards amid a 33-14 win against the New York Giants in Week 16 - the game that followed the loss to Denver - and it had 441 yards in the victory over the Colts Sunday.

"[Denver's] a good football team, and they got up on us early," Flacco said. "We made a couple of mistakes in the first half, and the game kind of got away from us. They're a good football team, though. They've got a couple of good pass rushers, a good defense, and it's going to be a good challenge. We're excited about it. We just didn't feel like we played up to par the last time we played them."

But Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin voiced confidence heading into Saturday's rematch with the Broncos.

"[I'm] really looking forward to it," Boldin said. "I was hoping we'd get Denver. So, they'll see us next week."

Asked why he thinks it will be a different result for Baltimore's offense this time around against Denver, Boldin replied: "We'll make it different."

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