This was brewing all week. Our Broncos had some time to heal and plan after a Thursday game last week. The Ravens were severely undermanned on defense (don't believe me just listen to Dan Dierdorff) and had canned their OC. Any doubt now on what Jim Caldwell did in Indy? "Yes, Peyton----looks good just keep doing that!" This is a long time coming and after so many losses to Baltimore in their house over recent history, let's just say this was sweet!
The Broncos have now won 9 games in a row, and today's victory also marks our 6th victory on the road to close out that portion of our schedule. We have Cleveland and Kansas City back to back at home to close the season. Here's where things stand in the AFC right now:
1) Texans 12-2, 10-1 AFC, beat Baltimore, Denver, lost to NE
(MIN, IND remaining)
2) Broncos 11-3, 8-2 AFC, beat Baltimore, lost to NE, HOU
(CLE, KC remaining)
3) Patriots 10-3, 9-1 AFC, beat HOU, DEN, lost to Baltimore
(SF, JAX, MIA remaining)
Will be tough to catch Houston, they have to lose both games, possible but unlikely. From here to the end of the season, we can all officially root against NE. We win against both inferior opponents at home and NE loses one game and we are guaranteed a first round bye. There are a ton of scenarios out there to be contemplated but the clearest way for a Broncos first round bye begins with a NE loss. All three have such close conference records that a plethora of scenarios could play out. NE would be guaranteed a bye in event of a three way tie because they have victories over both us and the Texans.
The win also insures that the Broncos can attain no lower than the #3 seed. I'm not going to begin to speculate what that might mean with the teams below us so bunched together, but we should have a clearer view after next weeks games.
For now, let's just jump right in to the positives and negatives that I saw during the game:
+ Knowshon Moreno is a tough running SOB. And what's amazing is that I wouldn't have ever said that even as recently as a few weeks ago. Those tough yards he's fighting for are really McGahee-esque. Add patience and a lower center of gravity and Knowshon very well may be the feature back he was expected to be when he was drafted. Gotta love that hurdle over Ed Reed!
+ Eric Decker ate up his man all game on that comeback route. Speaking of Knowshon, he made Decker's TD possible with his running. Beautiful double move on that and a very good throw by Peyton Manning. His arm strength isn't an issue.
+ While Manning struggled with accuracy early on, he made some nice plays downfield later in the game. That throw down the seam was one of the most beautiful throws of the season right over the LB's head and only where his TE could make the play. This game also broke a streak of four straight games with a Manning INT.
+ Great run blocking from the line today. Knowshon had plenty of space to work with.
+ Loved the use of Hester on the goalline and after Hillman proved he's still too small to pass protect.
- Manning and timing with receivers was bad to begin game---lots of miscommunications. Also overshot DT on a sure TD.
- Manny Ramirez allowing an early sack on Peyton.
- Hillman trying to pass protect. He picked up his assignment well, he just wasn't strong enough to hold his guy off. Must work on upper body strength in the preseason.
- Again conservative playcalling on 4th and short. I can get over the early FG----on the road take the points. But from the Baltimore 40ish they should have went for it.
- Didn't notice the use of the no-huddle today, I guess the Broncos felt they didn't need it.
+ Chris Harris pick 6 (along with being the longest INT return for a TD in Broncos History) was the quintessential game changer. Instead of giving up a TD after dominating all half and going into halftime with a 10-7 lead.....and Baltimore getting the ball first, we go up 17-0. That was the all game right there and it was beautiful. Harris is the most skilled guy we have at jumping routes. Champ will still jump the quick slant, but Harris' recognition has been spot on for weeks now.
+ Broncos front 7 for allowing just 56 yards rushing and a 2.9 average.
+ Allowed just 1/12 on 3rd downs----I don't know where this defense ranks among the all time great Broncos defenses, but it has to be up there----someone here do a post on this;)
+ Consistent pressure all game, and though Von didn't have a sack, he still made his presence known as did our line by getting good pressure on Flacco. Nice to see you get a sack Mr. Wolfe, you earned it!
+ WW made great plays all day in coverage. Missed a couple of INT's. I feel very confortable with him in coverage. In fact Trevathan and Williams had some solid plays too.
- Mike Adams and Tony Carter were out physical-ed by some larger receivers. Mike Adams in coverage has been worrisome all year. I just don't trust that guy when it comes to defending a TE.
- Garbage time points and yards. I hate it, just absolutely HATE IT when the Broncos D plays lights out all game and then goes soft at the end. Flacco statistically had just an average game due to the fact that the Broncos played some soft coverage late. BTW, if you're wondering why Flacco wasn't extended yet, this is why, he's just average---perhaps a smidge better. Think a shiny-er version of Kyle Orton.
+ Nice tacking by Colquitt
+ Nice tackling by Prater
+ Other than a couple decent returns the Broncos and guys like Bruton and Bolden held Jacoby Ford relatively in check.
- Nice tackling by our kickers.....it shouldn't get to their level 2-3 times like it did here.
- Prater missing yet another 40+ yarder. Oh well, ho hum, at least it was meaningless, hopefully it doesn't put him into a funk next week.
- Holliday fumble, two arms on the ball through traffic please.
Hey, it's been years since we have beaten the Ravens in their place (if it's ever happened since the end of the John Elway era). This team and their defense make some slow starts by our offense manageable. Looking forward though, Manning and our offense must start games off better if we want to be contenders in the postseason. Six wins on the road in a season is a hell of an accomplishment and unlike other AFC teams, I don't think the Broncos need the home field in order to succeed. NE probably needs it most given that they have never made a SB without being the #1 or #2 seed.
Be happy Broncos Country, this team has not let down and does not peak after a victory. Very quietly this team has managed to win 9 straight and is right in the thick of things in the race for a first round bye. Gotta love it! Now go cheer on the Niners-----GO BRONCOS!!!