Ravens down Saints behind Forsett, big-play defense

The Sports Xchange

November 24, 2014 at 8:53 pm.

Justin Forsett ran wild against the Saints defense. (Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

NEW ORLEANS — Justin Forsett rushed for a career-high 182 yards and two touchdowns, and safety Will Hill returned an interception for a go-ahead, 44-yard touchdown in the third quarter, powering the Baltimore Ravens to a 34-27 victory over the reeling New Orleans Saints on Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Ravens (7-4) handed the Saints (4-7) a third consecutive home loss. Baltimore tied the Pittsburgh Steelers for second place in the AFC North, a half-game behind the Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1).

Trailing 17-14 at halftime, the Ravens broke open the game with 13 consecutive points in the second half, including the interception return by Hill.

On the critical play, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees was pressured in the pocket and threw behind tight end Jimmy Graham in the right flat. Hill easily stepped in front for the interception and raced the rest of the way untouched, putting Baltimore up 24-17 with 4:59 left in the third quarter.

Justin Tucker’s field goals of 31 and 55 yards sandwiched Hill’s defensive score, and the Ravens led 27-17 with 10:59 to play. The Saints closed the gap to 27-20 on a 34-yard field goal by Shayne Graham, but they failed to get the touchdown they needed.

The Ravens then put the game away with 2:53 left on an 80-yard drive that ended with Forsett’s second TD of the game, a 20-yard burst off left tackle in which the running back was untouched after breaking one tackle at the line of scrimmage.

Brees hit Graham for a 2-yard score with 40 seconds left to pull the Saints within 34-27, but the Ravens recovered the ensuing onside kick to ice the game.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed 18 of 24 passes for 243 yards and a 15-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith.

The victory gave the Ravens a 4-0 sweep of the NFC South.

The Saints exploded for 10 points in the final four minutes of the first half to take a 17-14 lead into the locker-room. After Graham kicked a 20-yard field goal to cut Baltimore’s lead to 14-10, Brees got the ball back at his 19-yard line with 1:56 left and no timeouts.

Brees soon found wide receiver Marques Colston free over the middle for a 19-yard gain to the Ravens’ 26. After spiking the ball, Brees lofted a rainbow for Colston, who was running a seam route past safety Matt Elam, and Colston leaped in front of onrushing safety Terrence Brooks in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown.

The Ravens used a great goal-line stand to stop the Saints without points on New Orleans’ first possession. Wide receiver Joe Morgan raced 66 yards on a reverse to the Baltimore 1, but the Saints could not punch it in. On fourth down, nose tackle Haloti Ngata smothered running back Mark Ingram for a 1-yard loss, and the Saints came away empty.

The Ravens relied mostly on their running attack in the first half, with Forsett shredding the Saints for 115 yards on 13 carries. Forsett’s 13-yard burst off right tackle put Baltimore up 14-7 with 9:08 left in the second quarter.

Flacco gave Baltimore a 7-0 lead with a 15-yard strike to wide receiver Steve Smith, which capped a 97-yard drive after the goal-line stand.

Brees also hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a 10-yard touchdown late in the first quarter to tie the score at 7.

NOTES: Ravens WR Steve Smith reinforced his reputation as a Saints killer. Smith entered the game having caught 99 passes for 1,493 yards and 10 touchdowns against New Orleans, and he caught four passes for 89 yards and one touchdown Monday. … Saints NT Brodrick Bunkley left the game in the first half with a leg injury. … New Orleans QB Drew Brees completed passes to nine receivers in the first half.