- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2009

BALTIMORE | The Ravens aren’t quite a playoff team yet.

They sure are playing like one, though.

Joe Flacco threw a career-high four touchdown passes, and the Ravens capitalized on six Chicago turnovers in a 31-7 rout on Sunday.

Baltimore (8-6) led 14-0 after 13 minutes and 31-7 after three quarters. The victory solidified the Ravens’ hold on the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC and improved their record against teams currently with losing records to 6-0.

“The game looked like one team was playing for something and the other one really wasn’t,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

Jay Cutler threw three interceptions, upping his NFL-high total to 25, and backup Caleb Hanie was also picked off. In addition, Chicago (5-9) lost two fumbles.

Baltimore scored 24 points off turnovers.

“That’s what great teams do,” said Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who had two interceptions. “Good teams get turnovers. Great teams convert them.”

Chicago’s only score came on a 49-yard punt return by Earl Bennett.

The Ravens had alternated wins and losses for seven straight weeks, but now - after beating Detroit 48-3 the previous Sunday - they have their first winning streak since September.

“Obviously, the last two games we’ve played well,” said tight end Todd Heap, who caught two TD passes. “Defense made some big plays for us today, and we were able to capitalize. We’ve talked about it over the past few weeks, starting faster. You can talk about it all you want, but the biggest thing is you have to do it.”

The Ravens converted two takeaways into first-quarter touchdowns by Heap, and Baltimore coasted from there.

Flacco went 21-for-29 for 234 yards. The second-year quarterback also did some scoreboard watching, which enabled him to see that two teams chasing the Ravens - the Dolphins and Jets - lost.

“We need to win games anyway, but I’m not going to lie,” Flacco said. “I saw the scores.”

Cutler went 10-for-27 for 94 yards. The Bears have lost six of seven overall and five straight on the road.

“You get some breaks; you don’t get some breaks. It seems like we haven’t got a lot of breaks,” Cutler said. “A lot of that falls on myself and the rest of the offense as well. There’s a lot of character and a lot of pride in that room. Today, obviously, didn’t reflect that.”

Cutler completed a 30-yard pass to Bennett on the game’s first play from scrimmage. But the drive ended with an interception by Foxworth at the Baltimore 46, and the Ravens cashed in with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Heap.

And then it happened again: The Bears moved to the Baltimore 14, Jarret Johnson picked off a short pass intended for fullback Jason McKie and Flacco ended an 81-yard drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Heap.

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