Broncos vs. Ravens: Baltimore Defense Holds Kyle Orton in Check
Except for a couple of big plays -- a pair of scoring passes from Kyle Orton to Brandon Lloyd -- the Broncos top-ranked passing offense made little headway against a Ravens defense that is one of the toughest in the league. The Ravens responded with a smooth-efficient offense that gradually asserted itself against a game Broncos defensive unit, with Joe Flacco leading six scoring drives, including four that finished in the end zone. The game-breaker was a 30-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter by Willis McGahee.
The lack of a running game finally caught up with the Broncos. Denver's running game is ranked last in the league, and they couldn't turn to the run to offset the pressure on the passing game in falling to 2-3 on the season. The loss was Denver's first in five October games under second-year coach Josh McDaniels.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
• Besides another deflating loss in Baltimore -- the Broncos' 6-0 start last season came to a crashing halt in a 30-7 loss last November in Baltimore -- this game was pretty costly from a health standpoint for the Broncos. Safety Brian Dawkins (knee), safety Darcel McBath (ankle) and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas all were knocked out of the game with injuries.
• Denver really struggled to move the ball through the air against the Ravens and couldn't relieve the pressure off its top-ranked passing attack because of the weakness of its running game. As a result, the Broncos defense wore down as the game progressed. It gave up a 14-play, 72-yard drive in the second half that Ray Rice finished with his second short touchdown run of the day. The Ravens finished with touchdown drives of 73, 72, 72 and 90 yards, respectively.
• It took a big play through the air but the Broncos finally broke through for a score against the Ravens' top-ranked defense. Orton hit a streaking Lloyd with a 42-yard touchdown pass with 48 seconds left in the second quarter. Lloyd got behind Dawan Landry and made a diving catch in the end zone to pull Denver to within 17-7 at halftime. But the going got tough against a relentless Ravens defense that rarely gives up big plays.
• Midway through the second quarter, the pressure was squarely on the Broncos' defense. Up to that point, the Ravens had run 17 plays in the red zone to none for the Broncos, who had not even crossed midfield. After failing to finish their first drive, the Ravens jumped to a 17-0 lead, finishing two long drives with 1-yard touchdown runs by Flacco and Rice.
• Penalties were also the name of the game for Denver. The scoring run by Rice was preceded by a pass interference penalty by Broncos rookie cornerback Perrish Cox, who mauled Ravens wideout Derrick Mason in the end zone. The Broncos had trouble holding off Baltimore's defense as well, resorting to penalties to try to slow the Ravens' defensive push. Thomas, guard Russ Hochstein and center J.D. Walton were all flagged for holding penalties on separate first-half plays, negating solid gains by the Broncos each time. In all, the Broncos were flagged seven times for losses of 70 yards in the first half.
• Thomas, the Broncos' top draft pick, was lost for the game due to a head and neck injury when he was hit hard and fumbled during a second-quarter kickoff return. Thomas fielded the kick about 5 yards deep in the end zone and was running full speed at the 16 when he took a jarring hit from the side by Jason Phillips. Thomas' head was whipped to one side by the force of the blow and the ball came loose as he crumpled to the ground. The Ravens' Ken Hamlin recovered Thomas' fumble, setting up a field goal by Billy Cundiff for a 17-0 lead.
• On their first possession of the game, the Ravens reached the Denver 5-yard line, where they had a first-and-goal. They ran four plays, including three from the 1, but came up empty. They were turned away by a goal-line stand punctuated with a fourth-down sack of Flacco by Jason Hunter and Mario Haggan for a 14-yard loss. McBath was injured on the play and taken off the field on a cart . His legs got tangled-up in the end zone with intended receiver Haloti Ngata, normally the Ravens' nose tackle who lined up at fullback on the play. The Broncos said McBath suffered an ankle injury and he did not return to the game.
• In a shakeup on the offensive line, which has taken some heat over the Broncos' sputtering run game, veteran Russ Hochstein started at left guard over first-year player Stanley Daniels, who was among the Broncos' inactive players. The Broncos went into the game without starting tailback Knowshon Moreno, who missed a third consecutive game with a hamstring injury.