Defense, ST Earn A’s in Denver Photo credit: Helen H. Richardson

Report Card Defense, ST Earn A’s in Denver

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The last time the Ravens played in Denver, it was Week 1 of the 2013 season. That evening, Peyton Manning threw for 462 yards and seven touchdowns, completely dismantling Baltimore’s secondary.

This time around, the same team won, but in a much different manner. Baltimore suffered a setback on opening day for the third year in a row, as they lost to the Broncos on Sunday, 19-13.

Quarterback: D-

For the entire game, Joe Flacco never looked settled. He never had much time to set his feet and throw the ball. He was strong in the pocket and made some plays when other quarterbacks would’ve turned the ball over.

He also threw an interception when the Ravens were leading and controlling the entire game. That pick-six to Aqib Talib just cannot happen. Baltimore had Denver on the ropes and Flacco threw a bad ball in Steve Smith, Sr.’s direction.

On Baltimore’s last offensive play of the day, Flacco threw another interception, this time on a seam route to Crockett Gillmore. The ball was lofted a bit too much, and Gillmore almost hauled it in, but it was picked off by former Raven Darian Stewart, who sealed the win for the Broncos.

A quarterback rating of 38.2 will not get it done.

Running backs: C

Given the struggles of the offensive line, Justin Forsett (3.1 yards per touch) and Buck Allen (3.4 yards per touch) had decent performances against the Broncos. They took what was available and protected the ball well despite running into a swarming defense. You would like to see them both be better in pass protection, though.

The good thing is that neither Forsett nor Allen seemed to be fatigued after sharing 23 carries at mile high altitude in heat approaching 90 degrees.

Wide receivers/Tight ends: D+

The biggest play a Ravens receiver made came in the third quarter when Marlon Brown ran a nice back shoulder route against Aqib Talib and gained 22 yards. Brown was Baltimore’s leading receiver, unfortunately, with only 25 yards.

On the last drive of the game, Baltimore’s tight ends showed up big time. Gillmore caught a 14-yard pass on 4th down, and Maxx Williams made a key block on the perimeter to spring Forsett for a vital 20-yard run.

There’s definitely a lot of talent in this group, but its collective output was poor.

Offensive line: D-

Baltimore “only” surrendered two sacks to the Broncos’ elite pass rush, but it was all the quarterback pressures that caused such disruption to its game plan. According to Pro Football Focus, Flacco was pressured on 64.7 percent of his drop backs, which is an absurdly high number.

It was especially rough early on, but throughout the game the Ravens struggled with picking up the Broncos blitzes. Their pass sets weren’t enabling them to effectively deal with Denver’s rush. All linemen, including Marshal Yanda, struggled.

Give credit where credit is due. Wade Phillips called a tremendous game and made Marc Trestman react instead of initiate.

Defensive line: A-

Until 12:25 remaining in the 4th, the Ravens held the Broncos to 27 yards on 14 carries, including six carries for one yard or less. After that, Denver broke free on a few runs, but those runs weren’t anything that did real damage to the Ravens’ cause.  Baltimore’s defensive line took charge of the line of scrimmage, especially after Brandon Williams‘ encroachment penalty.

Speaking of Williams, he played an exceptional game, causing Denver’s offensive line all sorts of problems. He didn’t just take up and shed blockers; he made six solo tackles, which was the second-most of any player in the game. For a nose tackle, that’s a big number.

Chris Canty and Carl Davis also played well, each notching a couple of tackles and a pass defensed. Lawrence Guy made three tackles, including one for a loss.

It speaks volumes about Clarence Brooks and his players that this unit played that kind of game against that kind of team without Timmy Jernigan.

Linebackers: A

Although Denver’s offensive line was young, Manning is a master at knowing where to deliver the ball to most effectively defeat blitz pressure. That notwithstanding, Baltimore’s linebackers played a great game, accounting for three of the four Ravens sacks and multiple pressures that caused Manning to hurry his throws.

Given Manning’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly, the fact the Ravens sacked Manning multiple times on delayed blitzes (Daryl Smith, Albert McClellan) shows how capable they are of matching wits with the best.

Defensive Backs: A

Allotting  Emmanuel Sanders so much space off the line of scrimmage and so many yards after the catch wasn’t something I wanted to see. However, it was a wise scheme to run. Sanders was Denver’s best player on offense Sunday, and he only gained 65 yards on eight receptions. Last year, Sanders gained an average of 88 yards per game.

The Ravens contested pretty much every catch the Broncos made and they tackled exceptionally well. I don’t recall seeing any Broncos player break tackles and bust a big play. When a Ravens defensive back squared up on a Broncos receiver, that was just about the end of the play.

What can you say about Jimmy Smith? He led the Ravens in tackles and scored a 24-yard touchdown after intercepting Manning in the third quarter–his first career pick-six. On that play, Suggs and Mosley crashed down on the left side of the Broncos offensive line, allowing Kyle Arrington to blitz free into Manning’s face, causing Manning to rush his throw and allowing Smith to make the house call.

In a tough spot with new pieces in place, Baltimore’s secondary was excellent Sunday afternoon.

Special Teams: A

Sam Koch played a terrific, as he averaged over 51 yards per punt and placed each one in such a way as to allow Sanders very little space to return. Sanders could only manage 20 yards after three Koch punts.

After Denver started the game with 27 offensive plays to Baltimore’s 19, the Ravens were in need of points. Justin Tucker was the man for the job, even though the task was to make a 52-yard field goal. He did so with ease, and made another field goal from 44 yards away in the third quarter. On that kick, the ball hit the net behind the goal posts just above where the goal posts ended. Translation: Tucker nailed that thing.

It was also good to see Morgan Cox return to game action for the first time in nearly 11 months.

Team: B-

Homework:

  • Solidify blocking schemes
  • Encourage one another
  • Come home next week with a win

Player of the game: Jimmy Smith

Stat of the game: Baltimore did something on Sunday just 9.3 percent of Manning’s opponents have been able to do in over 17 seasons: hold him to a sub-60 quarterback rating (59.9). Before Sunday’s game against the Ravens, Manning was held to a sub-60 quarterback rating just 26 times in 280 career games.

Next exam: Sunday, September 20, at the Oakland Raiders (0-1)

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Mike Fast

About Mike Fast

Mike was born and raised in Baltimore. But after a year at York College of Pennsylvania, transferred to Towson University. At York he hosted various radio shows and wrote for The Spartan (the school's newspaper). In 2005, he spoke on a panel at the 2005 IBS conference in Manhattan regarding college game day presentation. At Towson, Mike was a public address announcer for multiple sports and majored in Mass Communication, with a focus in sports broadcasting. From 2012-13, he's covered Ravens training camp, and since 2012, he's been the social media coordinator for Johns Hopkins during their home men's lacrosse games. Mike got live a life-long dream when he attended Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans and witness the Ravens become world champions! If you choose to do so, follow Mike Fast on twitter: @MikeFastNFL More from Mike Fast

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