Ravens batter Broncos, take AFC North lead

BALTIMORE | The Denver Broncos should have seen it coming: another beatdown in Baltimore by the bruising, no-nonsense Ravens.

Ray Rice ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns, and Baltimore frustrated Denver quarterback Kyle Orton in a 31-17 victory Sunday.

Baltimore (4-1) jumped to a 17-0 lead and coasted to its third straight win, the first this season by double digits. The Ravens moved past idle Pittsburgh into sole possession of first place in the AFC North.

“It was an important win for us to get where we’re going as a football team,” coach John Harbaugh said. “This is a game we really had to win at home, against an AFC team.”

As if there was any doubt?

The Broncos (2-3) fell to 0-5 against the Ravens in Baltimore. In those games, Denver has been outscored 142-56, including 60-24 over the last two years.

In this one, Rice led a running attack that gained 233 yards, and Ray Lewis spearheaded a defense that relentlessly pursued Orton and limited Denver to 39 yards on the ground.

“Sure, they’re one of the most physical teams in the league,” Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. “But sometimes their toughness overshadows the talent that they have. They aren’t just tough; they’re a good team.”

Orton completed his fourth straight 300-yard passing game with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd with 35 seconds left. It was of little consolation to the Broncos, who hurt themselves by losing a fumble and committing 10 penalties for 90 yards.

“They’re just so good,” Orton said. “It’s tough to play them anywhere. Just be honest, they beat us up today.”

Denver coach Josh McDaniels concurred.

“I’m disappointed. We didn’t play as tough as certainly you’re going to need to against a team like this,” he said. “This is the first time I thought our mental toughness was questioned.”

What was billed as a duel between the best aerial game in the league and the No. 1 pass defense turned into a mismatch.

Orton went 23 for 38 for 314 yards and two touchdowns to Lloyd. But Denver never got closer than 10 points after the Ravens went up by 17 with 9:21 left in the second quarter.

That’s because Baltimore’s defense and running game were relentless.

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