NFL Nation: Broncos-Ravens 110109

 
 Geoff Burke/US Presswire
 Terrell Suggs and the Ravens defense limited Denver quarterback Kyle Orton to 152 yards passing.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BALTIMORE -- Terrell Suggs was a little confused Sunday.

The Pro Bowl linebacker/defensive end hybrid couldn't fathom why the Baltimore Ravens weren't considered the most feared defense entering their high-profile matchup with the Denver Broncos.

"That was the case today?" Suggs asked. "Wow! Look how times have changed."

Suggs’ surprised response stemmed from Baltimore’s dominant showing in a 30-7 victory over previously undefeated Denver. The win ended a six-game winning streak for the Broncos (6-1), who had frustrated opponents by pounding teams defensively the same way the Ravens (4-3) had in the past.

But the past became the present as Baltimore’s defense best utilized its bye week by reverting to its nasty brand of physical football.

The Ravens rattled and confused Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton and held Denver to only 66 yards rushing. With the defense setting the tone, Baltimore forced Denver into submission, which is something no other team this year had been able to do.

"They were coming off their bye week where they were the best team in the NFL, and we were coming off our bye week where we had three disappointing losses," Suggs said. "We had a whole week with that on our mind and we were just hungry. We were angry, and we very confident coming in."

Say what you want about the Ravens’ defense. But first and foremost, it’s a prideful group.

Some may disagree with their penchant for chest-thumping and brash talk, but the Ravens put a lot of hard work into building their defensive reputation through the years. Yet veterans such as Ray Lewis, Suggs and Ed Reed recently endured a lot of criticism for being the No. 19-ranked defense entering the game against Denver, which had held opponents to a league-low 11 points per game.

It’s difficult to remember a time when so many people doubted Baltimore defensively. But Sunday's performance went a long way toward showing what its defense is still capable of.

"We have good players," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It was fun to see them be able to do some things that they’ve been working hard to try and get done."

Denver’s game plan played perfectly into the Ravens' hands. The teams that gave Baltimore the most trouble this year all had great quarterbacks who weren’t afraid to challenge the Ravens vertically.

The Broncos are not a vertical team. They win with defense, field position and efficient play from Orton. But Baltimore made it look easy in beating Denver at its own game.

 
 Larry French/Getty Images
 The Ravens limited the Broncos to just 200 yards of total offense.
The Ravens stuffed the run and a majority of Denver’s screens, leaving the Broncos with very few options. Orton completed 23 of 37 passes for 152 yards and generally looked confused and out of rhythm for the first time this season. The Ravens sacked Orton twice and hit him often enough to make him uncomfortable.

Baltimore's offense also played better in the second half, and the special teams had a big return to start the third quarter. Rookie defensive back Lardarius Webb scored the first touchdown of the game on a 95-yard kickoff return to give the Ravens a 13-0 lead. It jump-started Baltimore’s run of 24 points in the second half.

Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 20 of 25 passes -- including 14 straight to end the game -- for 175 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens outgained Denver's offense 292-200, not including the big return.

"We have to be able to play tight defense no matter what we do," Reed said. "But give credit to our offense and special teams. There's no one side of the ball that can go without the other."

Last year Baltimore lost three games in a row early before making a run to the AFC Championship Game. If the Ravens continue to play defense at this level, there is no reason to believe they can't get hot once again.

A dominant performance against the Broncos is a good achievement. But the result is a setup to next week's huge division game against the first-place Cincinnati Bengals (5-2).

With the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) on a bye, the Ravens gained a half-game in the standings to further tighten the AFC North race. It should be an interesting month of November as all three teams play each other over the next few weeks.

"They had a week off, [and] we know they’re going to be really, really excited about seeing us coming in there, trying to go two up on us in the division," Lewis said of Cincinnati. "And the bottom line is, we understand what's in front of us."
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker

BALTIMORE -- The Ravens knocked one team from the undefeated ranks Sunday, and in the process they placed themselves back into the mix of AFC contenders.

Baltimore recorded its biggest win of the 2009 season in pounding the Denver Broncos, 30-7, at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens dominated Denver with 24 second-half points, which had been Denver's blueprint to winning all season.

Defense and special teams were great for the Ravens. Rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to start the second half, and Baltimore's defense ruffled Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton (152 yards) all afternoon.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (175 yards, one touchdown) was efficient on offense and at one point completed 14 straight passes in the second half.

The AFC North race has certainly tightened up.

With the Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) and Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) on a bye, the Ravens (4-3) gained a half-game in the division standings. Baltimore will travel to Cincinnati to play the first-place Bengals in a huge division matchup next week.

Webb sparks Ravens with return

November, 1, 2009
11/01/09
2:46
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker

BALTIMORE -- Ravens fans have been clamoring for rookie defensive back Lardarius Webb to get more playing time. Ravens fans are getting their wish.

Webb returned the opening kick of the second half 95 yards for a touchdown to give the Ravens a 13-0 lead over the undefeated Denver Broncos. Webb made one cut and went virtually untouched for the score. He's also playing in the secondary Sunday during passing downs.

The special teams play is huge in what’s been a defensive battle so far. It was the first kick return for a touchdown for Baltimore since December of 2007.

Broncos-Ravens halftime notes

November, 1, 2009
11/01/09
2:29
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker

BALTIMORE -- The Ravens lead the Denver Broncos 6-0 at intermission.

Here are some halftime notes and observations:
  • The Ravens are using a variation of the no-huddle offense in an attempt to set the pace against Denver’s tough defense. For the most part, it was unsuccessful as Denver's speed was prepared for the quick snaps and play calling. The Ravens have 103 total yards of offense in the first half.
  • For the most part, Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton looks rattled and uncomfortable in the pocket. Baltimore’s pass rush, which has struggled this season, is getting pressure on Orton, and the hits are impacting his performance. Orton looks rushed in his progressions and isn’t making the same quality of throws he’s made all season. He’s thrown for just 35 yards in the first half.
  • Baltimore receiver Derrick Mason was a victim of a bad no-call that could have led to a first down in the first quarter. Broncos rookie cornerback Alphonso Smith grabbed Mason’s jersey, which wasn’t caught by the refs. But Mason compounded the issue by losing his temper and costing the Ravens 15 yards.
  • After reviewing the tape for two weeks, the Ravens decided to make cornerback Frank Walker inactive. As expected, rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb played several snaps in the first half in sub packages. But it was interesting to see which cornerback got the boot, and it turned out to be Walker.
  • The Broncos have been a great second-half team and it’s one reason they are undefeated. It will be interesting to see how Denver responds after intermission in front of a raucous crowd at M&T Bank Stadium. In other Broncos notes, starting right tackle Ryan Harris suffered a toe injury in the first half and his return is doubtful.

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