BALTIMORE -- Against a franchise known for its stifling defense, it was the Broncos' group that dominated on Sunday.
The Ravens picked up just 12 first downs -- the first of which didn't come until the team's sixth drive -- and just one third-down conversion in a 34-17 Broncos win, Denver's ninth straight.
Meanwhile, the offense's 34 points were the third-most ever scored by an opponent in Baltimore in a game that didn't go to overtime.
"To be able to come here and get a win like this against the Baltimore Ravens just doesn't happen," defensive tackle Justin Bannan said. "I'm very proud of our team, the resilience we showed and the week of preparation we put in and how we worked this last week. To come in here and get this win, it's big."
Through their first five drives of the game, the Ravens offense ran just 15 plays. In that span, the Denver defense forced four three-and-outs and ended a drive on its third play thanks to a fumble forced by Bannan that was recovered by safety Rahim Moore.
In the first half, Baltimore had eight drives. Five ended in punts. Two ended in turnovers. The last ended with a kneel-down to send the game to halftime.
Perhaps most crucial was the defense's second takeaway. With the Ravens threatening to jump right back into the game, cornerback Chris Harris jumped in front of a Joe Flacco pass on first-and-goal from the 4-yard line, returning it 98 yards to the house. It marked the longest interception return for a touchdown in franchise history and turned what could have been a narrow 10-7 lead into a comfortable 17-0 advantage at the half.
"Big play, big swing in the game and the momentum," said quarterback Peyton Manning, who cemented his NFL-record 12th 4,000-yard season in the win. "I thought it kind of jump-started everything in the second half for us."
Baltimore scored on its opening drive of the second half, but a stand by the Denver defense limited it to a 45-yard Justin Tucker field goal.
"That's huge," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "One thing, coming out of the locker room, you don't want to give up seven points. If they would have scored right before the half and came out and scored again, it's a different ballgame."
Denver responded quickly. Five plays later, Manning hit Eric Decker for a 51-yard touchdown to give the Broncos a 24-3 lead.
"We were hitting some outs and some intermediate routes and we thought it was time to maybe send something down the field," Manning said. "It was a double move by Eric, a good route and good protection. I really thought it was set up by the run game."
After another three-and-out forced by the defense, the offense drove for another touchdown, this one courtesy of that run game -- a 6-yard Knowshon Moreno scamper. Moreno finished the afternoon with 118 yards on the ground -- his second consecutive 100-yard game.
Meanwhile, Ravens running back Ray Rice was held to just 38 yards on 12 carries.
"We knew that if we got off the field on third down, it takes Ray Rice out of the game," Harris said. "That's something that we wanted to do – come out here and stop them on third down. That eliminates giving hand offs to Ray Rice."
The Ravens scored twice in the fourth quarter, including a 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown by tight end Dennis Pitta -- something Bailey said the defense needs to address -- but the defense forced another three-and-out and two turnovers on downs to help ensure a Broncos win.
The icing on the cake might have been a 15-play drive strung together by the offense that took nearly 10 minutes off of the clock, culminating in a 36-yard Matt Prater field goal -- Denver's final points of the game.
"The most impressive thing was, when you've got the ball, you've got a lead and you can hold that thing for nine or 10 minutes, that's impressive," Bailey said. "That's what a good offense has got to do."
The win moved the Broncos to 11-3 on the season with two games remaining -- both of which come in the friendly confines of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Up next are the Cleveland Browns, and Manning said the team will have no problem keeping its eyes on the task at hand as opposed to scoreboard-watching when it comes to playoff seeding.
"All we can control is the two games that we have left," Manning said. "We have Cleveland, and that's the most important game because it's the next one. We'll get ready for those guys this week and that's really all we can control."