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Broncos, Ravens tied at 21 after 1st half

By ARNIE STAPLETON - AP Pro Football Writer
    2013-01-12 17:25

DENVER (AP) - Torrey Smith breezed past Champ Bailey for two long touchdowns as the Baltimore Ravens' quick-strike ability allowed them to keep up with the AFC's top-seeded Denver Broncos and head into halftime tied at 21 Saturday.

Smith had just two catches in the first half, but they covered 91 yards and both went for scores.

He sped past Bailey for a 59-yard TD in the first quarter and then beat him down the sideline for a 32-yard TD catch 36 seconds left before the break that capped a three-play, 58-yard drive that began after Matt Prater botched a 52-yard field goal attempt that would have given Denver a double-digit lead.

Smith beat Bailey several other times only to see Joe Flacco overthrow him, and Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was sure to reconsider his scheme not giving Bailey any safety help over the top so they could stay in and counter Baltimore's tough tight ends.

Running back Knowshon Moreno's first touchdown catch of the season, a 13-yard grab from Peyton Manning in tight coverage by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, had given the Broncos a 21-14 lead.

The Ravens rebounded from Trindon Holliday's 90-yard punt return touchdown, the longest in NFL playoff history, to score two TDs in a 42-second span in the first quarter.

The 13-degree temperature at kickoffs made this the coldest playoff game ever played in Denver. The wind chill was 2. The only colder game played in Denver was against San Diego on Dec. 10, 1972, when the temperature was 9 degrees.

Manning, the league's only four-time MVP, was 0-3 in previous playoff games below 40 degrees, all while playing for the Indianapolis Colts, who released him last year after a series of neck operations.

Manning had a stellar bounce-back season in Denver, throwing for 4,659 yards and a team-record 37 TDs.

Wearing gloves on both hands for the first time in his career - the one on the right hand as much a concession to the altered feel of his grip following the four neck surgeries as it was for the wintry weather, Manning threw a 15-yard TD toss to Brandon Stokley to tie it at 14.

Holliday got the scoring started when he fielded Sam Koch's punt, broke one tackle and raced down the Ravens' sideline, avoiding the punter as he galloped into the end zone. The previous longest TD on a punt return in a playoff game was Jermaine Lewis' 88-yarder for Baltimore in 2001.

Jacoby Jones botched the ensuing kickoff return, losing the handle on the ball as he brought it out before smothering it at the 6.

After a key pass interference call on Tony Carter allowed the Ravens to get out from the shadow of their end zone, Baltimore tied it at 7 when Smith got behind Bailey and hauled in Flacco's 59-yard touchdown toss.

Forty-two seconds later, cornerback Corey Graham picked off a Manning pass that deflected off receiver Eric Decker and returned it 39 yards for the score - and the Broncos trailed for the first time since Dec. 2 against Tampa Bay.

The Broncos were trying to avoid becoming yet another No. 1 seed to lose in the divisional round. Since 2005, eight of the 14 top-seeded teams lost their first game in the playoffs, four in each conference.

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