Watching the Baltimore Ravens complete domination of the Denver Broncos in yesterday's 30-7 victory had the team looking just like the one that went 8-2 in their last ten games to make the AFC Championship Game than the one that had blown the previous three by a total of 11 points.
Everything that most fans have complained about here on The Beatdown, on the airwaves and across the internet, seemed to disappear on a day that started off rainy and ugly but finished bright and beautiful. Whatever happened during their Bye week must have sunk in because the guys who showed up certainly improved in so many areas that were blatantly obvious issues prior to the game.
(Click on the 'Jump' to read more on "Ravens' Win Follows Last Year's Gameplan")
Going into the Bye week and up until gametime, the fear that most fans had was that we were not able to put pressure on the passer and even Kyle Orton would be able to pick us apart and use the huge Brandon Marshall to embarrass our secondary. After allowing two straight 100+ yard rushers, our defense faced the brunt of the fan's criticism and combined with he lack of the pass rush, needed to come up with the big plays to change those jeers into cheers.
Well, they all responded in a huge way. Denver's Kyle Orton was only 23-37 for 152 yards and while he did not throw an interception, he didn't complete a pass over 23 yards for a QB rating of 71. Speaking of Brandon Marshall embarrassing our DB's? Marshall had only four catches for 24 meaningless yards, including a long of nine measly yards. His best play was the ridiculous long pass interference penalty called on the Ravens after the referee right at the play called it incomplete only have another ref from the complete other side of the field run over and throw the yellow flag. Two more penalties kept the drive alive as the Broncos scored their only points of the day. Take away that pass interference penalty and the penalty at the other end of the field after we had a first and goal negated by a sissy personal foul call on Michael Oher that took away a possible TD for a FG and the score could have been as bad as 34-0.
The Ravens defense held the Broncos to 200 yards of total offense and totally shut down the Broncos running game, limiting them to 66 yards, holding starter Knowshon Moreno to just 39. The pass rush may have only had two sacks for the day, but seemed to have constant pressure on Orton all day. LB Jarret Johnson got it started on the Broncos first possession by rushing in untouched off the edge and slamming Orton to the turf a la Bart Scott's hit on Ben Roethlisberger three years ago. Amazing how much better the DB's looked with a decent pass rush, eh? Remember how many times I kept writing that for the past month or so? The Ravens pass rushers were in Orton's face all game and that showed by the hurries that caused incompletions and totally domination in the trenches against what was considered one of the top offensive lines in the entire league.
Offensively, the Ravens weren't rolling all over the Broncos top rated defense, but we were efficient and effective. Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron stuck to his game plan and kept pounding the ball into the Broncos athletic yet undersized defensive front seven, finally breaking through as the game progressed. Denver's vaunted pass rush did little to faze Joe Flacco and their top pass rusher, Elvis Dumervil was held sack-less.
Speaking of efficiency, I heard that Flacco complete his final 14 passes in a row to finish 20-25 for 175 yards, the one beautiful 20 yard TD pass to Derrick Mason and a stellar QB rating of 109.2. WR Kelley Washington made the most of his four receptions, each resulting in a key first down. Denver's Champ Bailey pretty much shut down Derrick Mason for most of the game, necessitating key plays from Washington and a couple of acrobatic ones by Mark Clayton to pick up the slack.
Lardarius Webb proved why he continues to deserve to get the ball in his hands on kickoffs and may be closer to doing the same on punt returns as well. Camera shots of Head Coach John Harbaugh on the sidelines imploring the fans to get out of their seats and cheer on the defense got huge reactions throughout the stadium as it was as loud as it have ever been, proving why this stadium is among the toughest places to come to for visiting teams.
Make no bones about it, the Denver Broncos are a good team and for real. You know all Ravens fans will be rooting for them as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers next week in the Mile High city on Monday Night Football. However, the Ravens proved they were a much better team than their 3-3 record indicated and yesterday were a much better team than the Denver Broncos. The Ravens have scored over 30 points in five of the seven games in 2009 and if their defense continues to play at the level they did yesterday, which was a lot like last year's one, this team could very well reel off a string of victories to get us firmly back in the hunt for the AFC North lead, starting next week with a revenge game at the Cincinnati Bengals.