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Flacco, Ravens light up mistake-prone Bears

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens aren't quite yet a playoff team.

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.

Four downs



» The Ravens are 13-1 at home vs. NFC opponents since 2003.

» With six receptions, Ravens WR Derrick Mason now has 855 for his career, making him the 16th player in NFL history to reach 850 receptions.

» The Bears have lost 8 of their last 10 games following a 3-1 start.

» Bears quarterback Jay Cutler posted the lowest passer rating of his career (7.9).

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 alternatingly won and lost for seven straight weeks, but now -- after beating Detroit 48-3 last 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 the Ravens 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 -- Miami and the New York 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.

Down 14-0, Chicago found a different way to end a march in frustrating fashion. After twice running for first downs, Cutler overthrew tight end Greg Olsen on fourth down from the Baltimore 1.

But the Bears held, and Bennett took the punt up the middle before cutting down the right sideline for a touchdown.

Baltimore missed a chance to widen its lead when Billy Cundiff hooked a 30-yard field goal try late in the half.


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But the Ravens pulled away with a 17-point third quarter. After Demetrius Williams caught a 32-yard touchdown pass between two defenders, rookie Johnny Knox fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and Flacco connected with Derrick Mason for an 18-yard score.

"It comes down to one thing: We need to do a better job with ball security," Knox said.

Two plays later, Chicago's Matt Forte lost a fumble and Cundiff followed with a 40-yard field goal.

Soon after that, Ravens coach John Harbaugh began emptying his bench. Ray Rice, who ran for 77 yards in the first quarter, finished with 87 and watched the fourth quarter from the sideline.

"Hopefully, we're building momentum at the right time. That's what we're trying to do," Harbaugh said.

With that, he allowed himself to look ahead to next week's showdown with the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who remain in the playoff hunt.

"Every week stands on its own," Harbaugh said. "We're going to come out with a new challenge against our archrivals next week at their place."

Notes: Chicago's DE Adewale Ogunleye broke his leg, Smith said. ... Ravens CB Lardarius Webb (knee) left in the third quarter and did not return. "I'm not optimistic," Harbaugh said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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