AFC North: 2011 Week 14 Wrap-ups

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- In stark contrast to Ray Rice's awkward news conference in May, the Baltimore Ravens running back showed Thursday that he finally understood the weight of his actions from the alleged altercation with his then-fiancée in February.

He delivered the correct message, one the NFL failed to do last week with the two-game suspension, by not only apologizing to his wife, Janay Palmer, but also expressing a desire to become an advocate for domestic-violence causes.

Rice was compelling in his contrition, calling it the biggest mistake of his life. He stood in front of the microphone alone, without his wife standing by his side, and took full responsibility for the incident. Perhaps more importantly, Rice actually said the words "domestic violence," which weren't heard in his statement two months ago.

"My actions were inexcusable," Rice said. "That's something I have to live with the rest of my life."

Before anyone pats Rice on the back, this is what he should have said the first time when he broke his silence in May. Instead, Rice nervously fumbled through notes on his phone and apologized to team officials and his sponsors. That debacle of a news conference came across as damage control to his image.

His 17-minute news conference Thursday hit the right tones. He apologized to all women affected by domestic violence. He accepted the blame for losing the respect of fans. Rice came across as genuinely sorry.

"I let my wife down, I let my daughter down, I let my wife's parents down, I let the whole Baltimore community down," Rice said.

Rice's biggest misstep was not talking about what happened in the elevator. He was asked twice about it and declined to answer both times. His stance against domestic violence would have resonated stronger if he had explained his transgressions.

"I'll be honest: Like I said, I own my actions," Rice said. "I just don't want to keep reliving the incident. It doesn't bring any good to me. I'm just trying to move forward from it. I don't condone it. I take full responsibility for my actions. What happened that night is something that I'm going to pay for the rest of my life."

The only way Rice can move forward from this incident and show he's truly sincere is through his actions. It's not by his words. It's not by a hefty donation, which is merely a gesture. It's by proving this will remain a "one-time incident" and by supporting domestic-violence causes.

Thursday represented a small step forward for Rice. But it was an important one.

Wrap-up: Ravens 24, Colts 10

December, 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 24-10 win against the visiting Indianapolis Colts:

What it means: The Ravens kept pace with the Patriots and Texans for a top-two seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs by defeating the winless and Peyton Manning-less Colts. Baltimore also stayed in first place in the AFC North (the Ravens own the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh) by winning its fourth straight game and improving its record to 10-3. A dominant team at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens set a franchise record with their ninth straight home win.

Not letting down: The Ravens didn't play down to their competition this time, ambushing Indianapolis in the first half. Baltimore scored on its first three drives (two touchdowns and a field goal) to take a 17-3 halftime lead. The Ravens gave up 47 yards in the first half, their fewest this season and the third-fewest in the John Harbaugh era.

Ending the drought: This didn't just end an eight-game losing streak to the Colts. It ended a three-game touchdown drought against Indianapolis under Harbaugh. The Ravens surpassed their point total in their past three losses to the Colts by three points today.

Flacco finds his groove: Joe Flacco was efficient, completing 23 of 31 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He had previously struggled against the Colts, throwing six interceptions and no touchdowns in his first three games against Indianapolis.

Dominant defense: The Ravens threatened to set a franchise record for fewest yards allowed in a game, holding Indianapolis to 53 total yards through three quarters. But the Colts finished with 167 total yards and reached the end zone on the final play of the game.

What's next: The Ravens take their second cross-country trip of the season when they play at San Diego on "Sunday Night Football."