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Broncos win ugly against Ravens, 12-10

DENVER (Dec. 11, 2005) -- The game tape probably belongs in the trash. Still, a win is a win, and in this case, it left the Denver Broncos tantalizingly close to their first division title in seven years.

Kyle Johnson made a tiptoe catch for a touchdown, Champ Bailey set a franchise record with an interception in his fifth straight game and Al Wilson made a big hit on the goal line to lift the Broncos to a 12-10 victory over the bumbling Baltimore Ravens.

"There are games you have to win ugly sometimes," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

Denver improved to 10-3 and, after the game ended, both Kansas City and San Diego lost to give the Broncos a two-game lead in the AFC West with three to go.

The end of the Chiefs game, a 31-28 loss to Dallas, was shown on the scoreboard, and the couple of thousand fans still filing out of the stadium cheered wildly when the Cowboys scored the late, go-ahead touchdown. It was one of the most exciting moments of an otherwise flat day at Invesco Field.

The Broncos haven't won the AFC West since 1998, the year they started 13-0 en route to their second straight Super Bowl title.

"It's big, but it's not the title we want," defensive lineman Trevor Pryce said of the AFC West.

To win the whole thing, they'll have to get much better than they were against Baltimore (4-9).

Jake Plummer threw for 236 yards and the touchdown to Johnson. Tatum Bell was held to 63 yards and Mike Anderson had only 21.

A better team would have taken advantage of Denver on this day, but the Ravens certainly don't qualify. This was the sixth time in 13 games they've been held to 10 points or less.

Most of their problems revolved around -- who else? -- struggling quarterback Kyle Boller, along with a questionable decision by coach Brian Billick.

Boller threw for 251 yards but turned it over three times -- including two awfully thrown interceptions with the Ravens in scoring range.

Despite all that, Baltimore trailed by only two after Mark Clayton caught a 39-yard touchdown with 1:52 left.

After the kickoff, Denver got a first down on Ashley Lelie 's end-around to seal the game.

The difference turned out to be Billick's decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 earlier in the fourth quarter. On that play, Wilson knocked Chester Taylor back for a 4-yard loss to keep the score at 12-3.

"Being down on the 1-yard line, it was too much to pass up the chance in our circumstances," Billick said. "To kick the field goal and then have to go the distance to score a touchdown wasn't going to go."

Of course, that was hardly Baltimore's only missed opportunity.

The Ravens made three trips inside the Denver 10. The first came after B.J. Sams returned the opening kickoff 87 yards. Three plays, one penalty and minus-1 yard later, the Ravens got their field goal.

The second trip, with the Ravens trailing 12-3 in the third, was followed immediately by a holding call, then a floater from Boller, who was trying to feather one in to Todd Heap but instead got picked by Bailey. It was the eighth interception of the season for the Denver cornerback and it broke Tyrone Braxton's record, set in 1996, for interceptions in consecutive games.

"The red zone has been our nightmare," Heap said.

With the score tied at 3, Baltimore also missed a good scoring chance late in the first half when Boller fell after taking the snap at the Denver 24, but stood up, backpedaled and threw an ill-advised lob that was intercepted by Nick Ferguson.

Denver's only touchdown was a 7-yard pass in the third quarter from Plummer to Johnson, who fought off Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister and made a nice catch in the front corner of the end zone, barely keeping both feet in for his sixth score of the season.

Normally, Johnson makes up some crazy end-zone dance to celebrate his scores. Not this time.

"I knew this game was not close to over and it wasn't," Johnson said.

As if to prove Johnson right, Jason Elam came out and clanked the extra point off the right upright, only the third miss of his 13-year career and a fitting monument to this less-than-brilliant performance by the Broncos.

Nevertheless, they weren't apologizing for the win.

"We are going to fight, and we are not going to give up," Wilson said. "It's not always going to be pretty, and in this league it won't be all the time."

Notes: Broncos OL Dwayne Carswell, severely hurt in a car crash in October, was on the sideline in street clothes. ... Ravens RB Jamal Lewis, who hurt his hand late in the week, was on the active roster but did not play.

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