|3rd Down Conversions||3/13||11/18|
There are games when you are beaten, then there are those that you lose. The Broncos fell somewhere in the middle on Sunday as they 'earned' their first loss of the season 30-7 in Baltimore to the Ravens.
I won't say it was all about Broncos mistakes, because that takes away from the way the Ravens played. They played exactly the way we expected them to play - like a team needing a win because they are 3rd in their division. I also can't give all the credit to the Ravens because the Broncos did enough damage to themselves to greatly aid the Ravens.
The first half played out very much like I thought it would. The Ravens played with a lot of emotion and the Broncos struggled a bit - at least on offense. The Broncos were able to do what they have done all season - keep it close and force field goals. The Ravens held a 6-0 lead, which could have easily been more after a Knowshon Moreno fumble - his 3rd of the season - gave the Ravens the ball at the Broncos 23.
A quick note about the Moreno fumble. Yes, it was one helluva hit by Ed Reed. That said, tell me that Moreno isn't getting the reputation around the NFL that if you hit him, and hit him hard, he'll drop the football. The hit by Reed isn't the point. The point is Moreno is on the cusp of being branded a fumbler. That's not a good thing - especially early in a career. Other running backs have had fumbling issues early - Tiki Barber comes to mind - and he was able to overcome them.
Back to the game. For me, things changed on 2 possessions sandwiching the half. The Broncos finally got into Ravens territory right before halftime before being forced to punt. Had the Broncos been able to score there - who knows. Of course, that point may have become moot when Lardarius Webb returned the opening kick-off of the 2nd half 95-yards for a Touchdown.
While the Broncos were able to score a TD after that, cutting the lead to 13-7, there was a feeling that I had that the Broncos just weren't going to get it done. The Ravens answered with a FG of their own and in many ways the game was over. The Ravens defense is too good when they make you one-dimensional and as it was, the Broncos couldn't protect Kyle Orton.
Which brings me to the play of the Broncos offensive line. I have said that I would give Denver the advantage over any team until I saw otherwise - today I did. The Ravens front-7 really gave the Broncos offense fits. They are a fast group and never really let Kyle Orton and the offense get into a rhythm. Then, once the lead went to two scores the Ravens really tee'd off.
For one second, give the Ravens some credit. They have issues in their defensive backfield. So far this season, their coaching staff has been criticized for not bringing pressure and it has cost them - they have given up a lot of points. To their credit they brought pressure today and the Broncos didn't have an answer. If it makes you feel better to blame the playcalling, or Orton, do so, but the Ravens had a great plan and they executed.
Of course, the Broncos didn't help themselves. They played poorly on offense and special teams. Defensively, for the first time all season, an opposing offense did the job on 3rd down. In a lot of ways it was the typical type game for the Broncos in Baltimore, who fall to 0-4 at MT&A Field.
The Broncos had to lose some time. Like it or not. For me, I'd much rather it be on the road than at home, much rather it be the way the Ravens did it - the coaching staff has plenty to look at, the players plenty to work on.
The next test for Josh McDaniels and the Broncos starts now. How does the coach deal with his team's first loss? How do the players deal with getting punched in the face a bit?
Of course, it is also a test of all of us Broncos fans. By winning the first 6 games, the Broncos have put themselves in a tremendous position - and spoiled us to boot. The NFL Season is a marathon and this was a speed bump.
The Ravens were desperate and battled themselves to a win. The Broncos? They are 6-1, heading home to prepare for a Monday Night meeting with the Steelers.