Lets start by summing up the day in one sentence. RB Knowshon Moreno is running straight ahead towards eight time pro-bowler and all-pro safety Ed Reed, and as he lowers his head for the tackle, Moreno leaves his feet and hops over Reed to keep the play going, leaving everyone in shock that Reed just got “punk’d!”
The Broncos have struggled in recent history against the Baltimore Ravens, including going 0-5 in Baltimore. The injury riddled Ravens still are considered a threat, and this having a “must-win”, having the chance to lock up the division, was ready to get up for this game.
The Broncos and Ravens we locked into a defensive battle in the first quarter.
Through the first right combined drives, there was six punts, and turnover and field goal scored by the Broncos. Again, the biggest issue Denver has is getting off to a fast start, particularly against the good teams they have played all season long.
The Broncos on their last drive of the first quarter were able to put together an eleven play, 78 yard drive lead by running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno, who is filling in admirably for the injury Willis McGahee, ran the ball for 71 yards on 17 carries in the first half, 118 yards for the game on 22 carries and a touchdown, helped give the Broncos build a lead. After having been in the doghouse with Head Coach John Fox earlier this season, Moreno’s play has taken notice amongst his peers says wide receiver Demaryius Thomas
“I’ve been watching Knowshon since college. I played against him. I know what the man can do. It’s crazy what he’s done since he’s been back. I’m happy for him, and I just hope he keeps doing it.”
The defenses, as mentioned came to play. The Denver defense didn’t give up a first down to Baltimore until eight minutes remaining in the first half and their first third down conversion until just over three minutes remaining in the first half. They also keep the ball out of the Ravens hands with almost a 2-1 T.O.P. ratio. Despite all this, the Raven were mounted a drive to help close out the first half. The Ravens had won the toss to begin the game and deferred to have the ball to begin the second half, Baltimore began to build momentum.
The drive consisted of three plays going for 10+ yards, including a 43 yard strike from QB Joe Flacco to WR Jacoby Jones to help set the Ravens up with first and goal from the four. Flacco, staring down his receiver to his left side, throws the ball, CB Chris Harris jumps the route and returns the INT the other way, and 98 yards later, the Broncos are close out the first half up 17-0 and steal all the momentum from the Ravens. Fox knew that his game would be decided through momentum, and the Harris INT was the “swing” of momentum they needed.
“Yeah, this game is about momentum and making plays and those are the kind of plays that change games. We knew that turnovers were going to be important in this game. We ended up +2. It’s something that Baltimore’s done a tremendous job of taking the ball away and not giving it up. They’re +12 on the season. We were -2 going into this game so we knew that was going to be a real big factor in the game.”
The Broncos being a team predicated on halftime adjustments and playing much better in the second half, did just that. First drive for the Ravens resulted in a three-and-out. Manning took to the field and lead five play, 83 yard drive that was capped off with Manning ( 17-of-28, 204, TD) hit WR Eric Decker in stride for a 53 catch and run good for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, the defense continued to play at an elite level. Granted the Ravens had a major change on the offense with the firing of Cam Cameron and the promotion of Jim Caldwell to Offensive Coordinator. The Raven offense found no rhythm against the Broncos defense. Only on third down conversion in the first half and a first down didn’t come until late in the second. The Ravens could not get on the scoreboard until their first drive of the second half, resulting in a field goal. The Ravens offense, looking for a jolt of life, did not find it on this day. Having gone 1-of-12 on third down conversions and only 12 first downs throughout the entire game. They could not keep any drive alive until the fourth quarter. This game was seen as a test for the Broncos, and for them to come out and flex their muscles left a last impression in their minds that they are ready to play with the big boys. Elvis Dumvervil told the Denver Post that they have what it takes to beat anyone.
The Ravens, lead by QB Joe Flacco (20-of-40, 254, 2TD’s, INT) and RB Ray Rice (12 carries, 38 yards) took pounding after pounding. The Denver defense hit the Raven offense with three sacks, five tackle for losses, three pass deflections, nine QB hits and the INT return for a touchdown. In all, 23 players recorded a tackle in this game. The Ravens didn’t score their first touchdown until the game was out of hand, at the beginning of the fourth when Denver was leading 31-3. Denver would give up a couple TD’s late and go on to win 31-17.
Denver received help as well with San Francisco holding off a late comeback by the New England Patriots. N.E. holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Broncos after beating them earlier in the season. But Denver now sits 11-3 while N.E. sits at 10-4. Currently, Denver is sitting in the #2 spot in the playoffs, should they win out as they wrap the season up now at home against the Cleveland Browns and the Kansas City Chiefs, they will be looking at a first round bye in the playoffs.