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Oh, did the Ravens need this one.

For their playoff chances. For their self-esteem. To get the media off their backs. To get their nervous fans back onto the bandwagon.

Here's all you need to know about Sunday's 30-7 knockout of the previously undefeated Denver Broncos at M&T; Bank Stadium: The Ravens finally played like the Ravens again.

They played with a swagger that was missing in their previous three games, three losses by a combined 11 points that left this team questioning itself, no matter what certain players tell you.

And they played with a chip on their shoulder the size of a giant redwood, which has always been the Ravens' way.

You want to talk about attitude?

How about Derrick Mason, the ultimate pro, wigging out and firing his helmet along the sideline in the first quarter after not getting a holding call on Broncos cornerback Alphonso Smith?

Sure, the helmet toss drew a flag: 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

But Smith grabbed so much of Mason's jersey, you'd have thought they were dating.

And firing the helmet sent a message: We want this game. And no one's taking it away from us.

Not the Broncos. And certainly not the referees.

Ray Rice, who rushed for 84 yards and caught five passes for an additional 24 yards and might be the best all-purpose running back in the NFL right now, was asked how good this win over Denver felt.

He flashed a smile you wanted to press in a scrapbook.

"It's special," he said. "It's an emotional game. It was a game that we needed, especially coming off the bye week. To come out and play all three phases the way we played, that was special."

Think the players were a little fired up for the Broncos? How about John Harbaugh?

Did you see the Ravens' coach waving his arms and exhorting the crowd for more noise in the fourth quarter?

The guy was so pumped, I thought he was going to jump into the stands and join the fat guys with the purple camo pants and face paint and 40 pounds of beads around their necks.

Whatever he was doing, it worked.

"The fans got rolling today," Harbaugh said after the game. "It was good to be in our stadium. Those two purple walls - on the side and in the end zone, when they got cranked up and our defense was on the field ... it made a difference."

Here's another thing the Ravens did yesterday that they hadn't done for a while: They made big plays again.

Big plays? No, make that HUGE plays.

Where do you want to start?

OK, start with linebacker Jarret Johnson's thunderous hit on Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton on the first play from scrimmage, which left Orton looking over his shoulder and hearing footsteps the rest of the afternoon.

That "was really big," linebacker Terrell Suggs said of the hit. "I don't think we've ever started a game with a sack like that."

Now move to Lardarius Webb's electrifying 95-yard touchdown run off the second-half kickoff, when he apparently became invisible to the entire Broncos defense.

Suddenly it was 13-0 Ravens.

The Broncos looked like they'd taken a collective punch to the jaw.

The Ravens? They looked like they had their mojo back - finally.

"Everybody just got their man," Webb said of his blockers. "I just saw a hole and ran as fast as I can."

Finally, in the fourth quarter, you had Joe Flacco's 20-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason, a perfectly placed bullet over the deep middle that made it 23-7 Ravens and took all the heart out of the Denver defense.

How good is Flacco right now?

Scary good.

On the day, he was 20-for-25 passing for 175 yards and touchdown, an 80 percent completion rate that tied him with Elvis Grbac, of all people, for the team's single-game record.

This season, he has completed 66 percent of his passes (165-for-250) for 1,849 yards and 12 touchdowns against just five interceptions, giving him a 95.6 rating.

With 26 career touchdown passes, he's already third on the Ravens' all-time list, which would be even more impressive if you didn't remember all the horrible quarterbacks that have played for this team over the years.

But why be a killjoy and dwell on that now?

This was a big win for the Ravens. Let them enjoy it for a couple of days.

The swagger was back. The big plays were back.

They played like the Ravens of old.

On most Sunday afternoons, that's usually plenty good enough.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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