On an ugly rainy day in Baltimore, the Ravens looked just as unattractive to start. Quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked on second down, and the offense went three-and-out. Then, Sam Koch’s punt was blocked on fourth down, setting the Broncos up inside the 10-yard line. On the very first offensive play for Denver, rookie running back Royce Freeman walked into the end zone untouched for an easy touchdown.
Baltimore responded well on the next possession, however. After a good return from Tim White, which set the Ravens up near midfield, Flacco led the offense down the field, including a 30-yard catch-and-run from rookie tight end Mark Andrews. The drive was capped off with a touchdown run from Alex Collins.
Irish danced his way to the endzone. @Budda03 pic.twitter.com/9ttQCmbSwA— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 23, 2018
Things did not get better for Baltimore’s defense on the next drive, as they allowed a 35-yard touchdown on an end around to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The Ravens offense responded by getting in range for a Justin Tucker 52-yard field goal. After a punt from both teams, Flacco found Javorius Allen through the air for a 12-yard touchdown.
It's a touchdown.@realbuckallen pic.twitter.com/rf1HSAOQ57— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 23, 2018
Flacco continued his strong connection with wide receiver John Brown with a 44-yard deep pass on the following offensive drive. Still, the drive ended in a block field goal. Chris Harris Jr. returned the blocked kick for a touchdown, but it was called back for an illegal block in the back, and Denver was unable to capitalize on the turnover.
The next score was another 52-yard field goal from Tucker for Baltimore, making the score 20-14 going into halftime.
The Ravens started strong in the third quarter with a touchdown drive. Andrews had another big catch on the drive for 29-yards, and Allen ran the ball in for his second touchdown of the day, giving Baltimore a 27-14 lead.
After the defense had kept the Broncos out of the end zone since the first quarter, Denver was knocking on the door at the 15-yard line. Quarterback Case Keenum was picked off by inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor. Onwuasor returned the interception for a touchdown, but it was negated by an illegal block in the back penalty on Matthew Judon.
The Ravens were able to grind the game out afterwards, pressuring Keenum and covering well on defense and running the ball and converting critical third downs on offense. Baltimore’s defense had an impressive showing considering the absence of C.J. Mosley, Michael Pierce and Jimmy Smith. Rookie inside linebacker Kenny Young had another impressive game in Mosley’s absence, totaling 10 tackles. Keenum was limited to 192 passing yards and zero touchdowns, and he was pressured and hit all day by the Ravens defense. Judon, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith combined for three sacks on Keenum. In comparison, Flacco was only sacked twice, as Von Miller was held to zero sacks.
Despite a solid performance from Baltimore’s offense, the run game was still a nagging issue. Collins finished the day with 68 rushing yards and a touchdown but was unable to consistently find holes and running room on the ground. Flacco was on point through the air, however, throwing for 277 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, the offense did not turn the ball over once.
The Ravens now improve to 2-1 and join Cincinnati at the top of the AFC North after the Bengals fell to 2-1 with a loss to the Panthers. Baltimore will face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football next week.