Final Word: Ravens at Broncos

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: Packers-49ers | Seahawks-Falcons AFC: Ravens-Broncos | Texans-Pats

Five nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game:

Flacco factor: The Ravens are at their best when quarterback Joe Flacco goes deep. In the wild-card win over the Colts, Flacco averaged a career-best 23.5 yards per completion, which was also the second highest for any quarterback in a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Baltimore is 10-2 this season when Flacco's average target is more than 9 yards downfield. The Ravens are 1-4 when it's fewer than 9 yards. It's tough to throw deep downfield against Denver because of Von Miller and the Broncos' pass rush. Denver allowed 39 completions of more than 20 yards, the fifth-fewest in the NFL.

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesBaltimore is 10-2 this season when Joe Flacco's average target is more than 9 yards downfield.
Pass at your own risk: The Ravens haven't allowed a touchdown pass in their past three playoff games. Baltimore has held Houston's T.J. Yates, New England's Tom Brady and Indianapolis' Andrew Luck to a combined six interceptions and no touchdowns. Since 2008, when coach John Harbaugh took over as coach, the Ravens have intercepted 18 passes in the playoffs, the most in the league. No other team has more than 16 turnovers in the postseason, much less interceptions, over that span. Only two quarterbacks have thrown more touchdown passes than interceptions against Harbaugh's Ravens in the postseason: Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning.

Ball security: The Ravens' Ray Rice lost two fumbles in Sunday's wild-card game, joining Green Bay's Ryan Grant (2007) as the only running backs to lose two fumbles in a postseason game in the past 10 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Rice's four fumbles lost in the playoffs are the most for any active player. The Broncos forced 20 fumbles in the regular season, the fifth-most in the NFL. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil have caused six fumbles each. In his past six playoff games, Rice hasn’t rushed for more than 70 yards in any game.

Third-down meltdown: Last month against Denver, the Ravens failed to convert on 11 of 12 third-down opportunities (8 percent success rate), their worst showing of the season. That was Baltimore's first game under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, and the Ravens went three-and-out on their first five drives of the game. They didn't record a first down until midway through the second quarter, and Flacco finished 3-of-11 on third downs for 29 yards. Since that game, the Ravens have been much more efficient, converting on 44 percent of their third downs. Also, after being held to 278 yards by Denver, the Ravens have gained at least 350 yards in their past three games, their longest such streak since 2010.

Tough against the run: Baltimore has allowed one 100-yard rusher in the playoffs (Houston's Arian Foster last season), keeping opposing running backs under the century mark in 17 of 18 postseason games. The Ravens have given up 89.3 yards rushing per game in the postseason, the lowest average since the 1970 merger. The Ravens' run defense has been more vulnerable this season, ranking 20th in the regular season. Denver's Knowshon Moreno gained 115 yards last month against the Ravens, which included a leap over safety Ed Reed. But the Ravens didn't have Ray Lewis or their two top tacklers (safety Bernard Pierce and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe) for that game. All of them will suit up Saturday.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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