The odds were stacked against them. On the road, first game of the season, in Denver, hot temperatures in the Mile High city against a team whose collective gut churned for 8 months because they fell to the Ravens in the Divisional round last season.
Early on it looked like the Ravens were up to the task.
And then along came the third quarter.
Trailing 17-14 going into the break, the Broncos produced 21 unanswered points to take a 35-17 lead. Peyton Manning peppered the Ravens defense, wore them down and left them gasping for air on his way to a 7 touchdown pass performance.
It was an absolute embarrassment.
The good news is that it is only 1 loss and the Ravens have plenty of time to get it right before their home opener against the Browns on September 15.
THE GOOD: Vonta Leach made a nice one-handed catch for a 2-yard score, the first of the game to stake the Ravens to the early 7-0 lead. Leach also had a key block on the Ray Rice 1-yard end zone scamper…Haloti Ngata was stout at the point of attack against the run…Terrell Suggs and Chris Canty both applied pressure consistently, each with a sack and 3 QB hurries…Lardarius Webb broke on the ball nicely and was easily the best defender in the Ravens’ secondary. A chair could have been second best.
THE BAD: Joe Flacco locked in on receivers and one would hope that could be attributed to his lack of familiarity with a skeleton receiver crew, particularly after Jacoby Jones left the game with a knee injury. Game replays showed that Flacco failed to spot open receivers downfield because he predetermined where he was going with the ball. He did the same during the horrendous pick by Danny Trevathan on a ball telegraphed to Ray Rice. Fortunately (at least temporarily) Trevathan unleashed his inner DeSean Jackson and drop the ball on the 1 before crossing the goal line.
Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson were awful until it didn’t matter. Both had key drops when the game was still a contest. Don’t let Clark’s stats deceive you…The offensive line failed to generate a push in the running game and this is clearly an area of concern. The Broncos produced 10 tackles-for-loss. There has to be some concern that Running Game Coordinator Juan Castillo is just not connecting at the moment with the offensive front. Without the running game Flacco is unable to be at his best – utilizing play action.
John Harbaugh and his staff need to be more coordinated with their challenge procedure. In the third quarter a 3rd and 9 pass from Manning to Wes Welker was ruled incomplete yet replays showed it clearly hit the ground. Corey Graham begged for the challenge flag. None was thrown and the Ravens missed an opportunity to force a punt. Instead, three plays later Manning connected on a 28-yard scoring strike to Andre Caldwell over Jimmy Smith. Graham played well beyond expectations in 2012 but tonight was his worst as a Raven. He was beaten regularly by Wes Welker (2 scores) and then again by DeMaryius Thomas on another scoring strike.
THE UGLY: The Ravens yielded 167 net yards of offense in the third quarter while their own offense produced only 8 net yards…The play of the safeties was out of synch particularly Michael Huff who looked clueless. It was hard not to think of Ed Reed during this pasting…Although special teams did a nice job neutralizing Trindon Holliday on returns, they allowed a blocked punt and due to a rookie mistake on the part of Brynden Trawick, Jacoby Jones could miss significant playing time. The reserve safety ran into Jones while the Pro Bowl returner attempted to field a punt. A thin WR corps may have just gotten thinner…The punt team also looked tired and careless during a 27-yard return by Wes Welker.
The Ravens coaching staff was outclassed today. Besides the missed opportunity on the challenge, the Ravens could not get two of their best offensive weapons untracked. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce could only muster 58 yards on 21 rushing attempts…Defensively they yielded their highest point total in team history (49) and their philanthropic secondary had no answer for Manning, yielding 7 TD’s. They also placed two of their best players at risk – Lardarius Webb on punt returns and Joe Flacco in obvious mop up time.
The number 34 is unkind to the Ravens. Both the Super Bowl power outage and Thursday night’s electrical storm delayed each game by 34 minutes. It is also Bobby Rainey’s former number and if Jones is down for an extended period, they will regret not keeping the current member of the Cleveland Browns.
THOMPSON CREEK PLAYER OF THE GAME: There’s a saying in golf after someone sinks a lengthy putt for a double bogey (or worse) that it’s like putting whip cream on [crap]. With that in mind this week’s player of the game is Marlon Brown who still seems unflappable and delivers when called upon. He just missed making an outstanding back shoulder catch for a 20+-yard gain down the right sideline but he did produce 4 catches for 65 yards and his first NFL touchdown. On a night when it was hard to be excited by anything, Brown’s performance continues to support the notion that this UDFA from Georgia is a real find by the Ravens’ scouts.