Rapid Reaction: Broncos 34, Ravens 17
December, 16, 2012
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
BALTIMORE -- My thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos:
What it means: After starting off with a 9-2 record, the Ravens continued their downward spiral with their worst home loss in the five-year John Harbaugh era. It marks Baltimore's first three-game losing streak since 2009. It's also the first time in five years that the Ravens have lost consecutive games at home. The Ravens (9-5) have watched their lead in the AFC North dwindle to one game over the Cincinnati Bengals (8-6). Baltimore still could clinch a playoff berth if the Pittsburgh Steelers lose at the Dallas Cowboys this afternoon.
Floundering Flacco: The change in offensive coordinators didn't immediately get Joe Flacco out of his slump. Two Flacco turnovers resulted in 10 points for the Broncos. Flacco fumbled for the third straight game and he had an interception returned 98 yards for a touchdown in the final minute of the first half. Before getting some yards during garbage time, Flacco was 16-of-34 for 148 yards through three quarters.
Manning's mastery continues: Peyton Manning still owns the Ravens. His winning streak was extended to nine games over Baltimore. Manning wasn't particularly sharp, finishing 17-of-28 passing with 204 yards with one touchdown. It marked the first time the Broncos have won in Baltimore since 1983, when Denver and a rookie quarterback named John Elway beat the Colts.
Rough debut for Caldwell: It was a miserable first impression for Jim Caldwell, who was in his first game taking over for Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator. The Ravens didn't get their first first down until eight minutes left in the first half and didn't reach the end zone until the fourth quarter. It marked only the second time that the Ravens had been shut out in the first half.
Banged-up defense: Despite the score, the Ravens' defense played surprisingly well under the circumstances. Baltimore was playing without its top three tacklers -- safety Bernard Pollard and inside linebackers Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe -- all of whom were inactive. It was a matter of the Ravens defense breaking down at the end. In the third quarter, cornerback Cary Williams quit on a 51-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker and the run defense couldn't get off blocks as Knowshon Moreno scored on a 6-yard touchdown run.
Beaten-up offense: The injuries are piling up for the Ravens' offense, too. Torrey Smith, Baltimore's top deep threat, and backup running back Bernard Pierce were both knocked out of the game with concussions. Their availability is unknown for next Sunday. This is an offense that is already without guard Marshal Yanda, who has a significant ankle injury.
What's next: The Ravens play host to another Manning when they face the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.