NFL Nation: 2013 Week 1 BAL at DEN

Ed DicksonDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesEd Dickson had a number of misplays trying to fill the void left by Dennis Pitta's injury.

DENVER -- The Baltimore Ravens' free fall from atop the football world was embarrassing and historic Thursday night.

The Ravens' new-look defense gave up an NFL-record-tying seven touchdown passes to Peyton Manning. Baltimore suffered the worst season-opening loss for a defending Super Bowl champion and allowed the most points in the Ravens' decorated history.

But it became clear, from the cringe-filled 3 1/2 hours on national television to the sobering atmosphere in the locker room, that the Ravens' 49-27 loss was self-inflicted. The Broncos didn't beat them. The Ravens beat themselves.

In fact, the Ravens beat themselves up. They injured their own teammates -- twice. When you combine that with the dropped passes, the blocked punt and the miscommunication in the secondary, the Ravens should feel lucky they didn't get beat by more.

With 10 different starters from their Super Bowl team, the Ravens knew they would be a work in progress, especially early in the season. Their performance in the opener showed they have a ways to go to match up against a top team in the AFC.

"The biggest issue that we had tonight was that we gave up too many easy things," coach John Harbaugh said. "Even right down to the end, we're fighting like crazy to try to create a play and we gave them a touchdown at the end. That's just the bottom line. We can't give them easy plays."

The knee-jerk reaction is to say the Ravens lacked poise in their first game without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. How the game was lost goes deeper than that.

Some mistakes were uncharacteristic. Quarterback Joe Flacco, who hadn't thrown an interception in 210 passes, was picked off twice in his own territory.

Other mistakes were more alarming, especially at tight end and in the secondary. Without Dennis Pitta (hip injury), tight ends Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark combined to drop more than a handful of passes. General manager Ozzie Newsome was the best tight end on the Ravens on Thursday night.

"There were things that can easily be corrected within a couple of days and will be corrected in a couple of days," said Dickson, who didn't play in the preseason because of a hamstring injury.

The most devastating drop came late in the second quarter, when Clark dropped a third-down pass near the goal line. The Ravens had to settle for a field goal and a 17-14 lead going into halftime. The biggest reason why the Ravens signed Clark was his sure hands and ability to make plays in the red zone.

"It's disappointing," Clark said, "and you have to get the next one."

Everything spiraled out of control for the Ravens in the second half. After Harbaugh didn't challenge a Wes Welker drop -- the coach said the Ravens never saw a replay -- the Ravens gave up three touchdown passes in less than six minutes in the third quarter. Jimmy Smith got burned by Andre Caldwell for a 28-yard touchdown. Corey Graham couldn't stay with Welker for a five-yard touchdown. And Graham and Lardarius Webb both covered Demaryius Thomas and left Welker wide open for a two-yard touchdown.

This certainly raises a red flag when a defense, which allowed 15 touchdown passes all of last season, gets lit up for almost half that amount in one game. Graham, who picked off Manning twice in last season's playoff game, had a hand in three touchdowns.

"It was one of those games where everything they did went right, and everything we did went wrong," Graham said. "It's a rough one, and for me personally. It's probably one of the worst games I've ever played in my life."

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
AP Photo/Joe MahoneyJoe Flacco and the Ravens were humbled, but he expects his team to be able to bounce back.
The hope is the secondary will get better when the defensive backs gain more chemistry and the tight ends will get more of a rapport with Flacco. The bigger problem for the Ravens may be injuries.

Wide receiver Jacoby Jones was knocked out of the game with a sprained knee after his teammate, rookie Brynden Trawick, ran into him on a punt return. Later in the second quarter, right tackle Michael Oher left the game with a sprained ankle after guard Marshal Yanda rolled into him on Ray Rice's one-yard touchdown.

Harbaugh didn't provide an update on the injuries. If they're serious, the Ravens would rely on two rookies, wide receiver Marlon Brown and right tackle Rick Wagner, to replace them.

The Ravens acknowledged being disappointed and humbled by how they played. They weren't ready to concede to the division to the Cincinnati Bengals and give up on a sixth consecutive playoff appearance after one lopsided loss.

The 1993 Dallas Cowboys opened their Super Bowl defense by getting beat by 18 points. They started out 0-2 that year before rebounding to win the Super Bowl again.

"We've all been through this before and we've gotten beaten like this," said Flacco, who was 34-of-62 for 362 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. "So, I don't think we overreact. John is an experienced head coach and we've got enough guys who are experienced with this type of thing. We'll know how to handle it. Overrating sometimes isn't a bad thing. There's a lot of mistakes and guys tend to react well to it."

Locker Room Buzz: Denver Broncos

September, 6, 2013
DENVER -- Observed in the locker room after the Denver Broncos' 49-27 dismantling of the Baltimore Ravens.
  • Linebacker Danny Trevathan, who tossed away his chance at his first career touchdown when he dropped the ball before crossing the goal line after a 29-yard interception return, was contrite and more than slightly embarrassed. “That was kind of selfish, and that’s not the kind of player I am," Trevathan said. “I have to learn from that."
  • Kick returner Trindon Holliday (left lower leg), linebacker Wesley Woodyard (right ankle), cornerback Omar Bolden (left shoulder) and wide receiver Eric Decker (right shoulder) will all be evaluated further Friday. Woodyard’s injury, in particular, will bear watching. Trainer Steve Antonopulos retaped his ankle and Woodyard went back into the game, but that is an injury that may feel a lot worse in the coming days.
  • When Shaun Phillips signed a one-year deal during draft weekend to join the Broncos, he said it “was to come to a place to play in big games." He got his wish and finished with 2.5 sacks Thursday night. He had two 2.5-sack games on the way to 9.5 sacks for the Chargers last season.
  • Duke Ihenacho spent most of last season on the Broncos' practice squad. Thursday night he started at safety and led the team with 12 tackles, 11 solo.
DENVER -- One of the turning points in the Baltimore Ravens' 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos on Thursday night came early in the third quarter, when wide receiver Wes Welker trapped a ball that kept an eventual touchdown drive alive.

Replays showed Welker letting a third-and-9 pass hit the ground, which would've sent the Broncos' punting unit onto the field. Three plays later, Peyton Manning hit Andre Caldwell for a 28-yard touchdown to put the Broncos ahead 21-17, a lead they would never relinquish.

It was originally believed that Manning hurried to the line and got the next play off before the Ravens could challenge. But coach John Harbaugh wasn't aware of the play until after the game when a team spokesman told him about it.

"That's something we got to see," Harbaugh said. "It'd be nice if NBC would show that and get a chance to look at it. We never saw that."

DENVER -- My thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos:

What it means: The Ravens' title defense -- as well as life without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed -- opened with a dud. This is the first season-opening loss for coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco in their six years together, and it wasn't even close. An interception by Flacco in his own territory, a blocked punt and a drop near the goal line all led to the worst loss by a defending Super Bowl champion in a season opener, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The 49 points are the most allowed by the Ravens in their history.

Stock watch: Falling -- Ravens secondary. The Ravens gave up an NFL-record-tying seven touchdown passes, and everyone took turns getting roughed up. Safety Michael Huff couldn't keep up with tight end Julius Thomas (two touchdowns), cornerback Corey Graham struggled covering Wes Welker (two touchdowns) and cornerback Jimmy Smith watched a good game turn bad when he was beaten by Andre Caldwell (one touchdown). The Ravens allowed Peyton Manning to throw three touchdowns in a disastrous third quarter, which turned Baltimore's 17-14 lead into a 35-17 deficit.

Why not challenge?: With the Ravens ahead 17-14 early in the third quarter, Welker trapped a ball that was ruled a completion, which converted a third down. If Harbaugh had challenged, the drive would've ended. Instead, Manning rushed to the line to snap the ball, and three plays later, Caldwell scored a 28-yard touchdown. The Broncos took a lead they would never relinquish.

Too many drops: The loss of tight end Dennis Pitta (hip injury) was felt right away. Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson dropped at least five passes. The devastating one was Clark failing to hold onto a third-down pass inside the 5-yard line. The Ravens had to settle for a field goal and a 17-14 lead at halftime.

Self-inflicted: Two Ravens starters were hurt in the second quarter by their own teammates. On a punt return, Jacoby Jones was leveled by rookie Brynden Trawick and suffered a sprained knee. Then, on Ray Rice's one-yard touchdown run, right tackle Michael Oher sprained his ankle when guard Marshal Yanda rolled into him. Two rookies, wide receiver Marlon Brown and offensive tackle Rick Wagner, replaced the veterans in the starting lineup.

What's next: The Ravens (0-1) get nine days before playing the Cleveland Browns at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 15. Baltimore has a 10-game winning streak over Cleveland.

Rapid Reaction: Broncos 49, Ravens 27

September, 6, 2013

DENVER -- Some thoughts in the wake of the Denver Broncos' 49-27 victory over Baltimore in the NFL season opener Thursday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High:

What it means: The Broncos, after their playoff misery last January and an offseason filled with turmoil, finally have more than a little momentum to grab on to as they head off into the regular season.

The offense flexed its big-play muscle and flashed some of the pedal-to-the-metal speed, which is going to cause opposing defenses some problems at altitude. Peyton Manning became just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to throw seven touchdown passes in a single game, and he did it with the merciless, take-what-the-defense-gives-you approach that should worry ever defensive play-caller in the league.

Manning tossed touchdowns to three different wide receivers and the tight end -- two to Wes Welker, two to Julius Thomas, two to Demaryius Thomas and even one to, yes, Andre Caldwell.

Stock watch: America, meet Julius Thomas. The Broncos' third-year tight end caught two touchdown passes and figures to be a rather popular fantasy pick-up in the coming days.

The Broncos thought cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie still had it in him to be a No. 1 option if needed, and on a night when Champ Bailey missed the first season opener of his award-studded career, Rodgers-Cromartie was all that. He lined up in Bailey’s left cornerback spot and kept the Ravens’ Torrey Smith in line all evening.

Hit the reset: Sometimes, when pass protection is an issue in the team's preferred three-wide receiver look, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase likes to beef it up for a series to set things right.

After running their first 20 offensive snaps in three-wide formation with only limited success and Manning having taken a hit here and there, the Broncos opened a series with 8:03 left in second quarter in a two-tight end look. They quickly moved the ball, gave Manning time and switched back into three-wide when they got into Ravens territory, and stayed in it for much of the remainder of the evening.

Uh, the arm, it’s fine: Seven touchdown passes, another 400-yard game and a 49-point binge on the season’s opening night for Manning. His receivers have spoken all through the offseason about Manning’s improved arm strength, and he flashed accuracy to all parts of the field Thursday.

What’s next: The game Manning doesn’t particularly like – a showdown against his brother Eli in New York. But they now have nine days to prepare, given they helped lift the curtain on the season.




Thursday, 9/18
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