The anticipation was killing me leading up to this game today. I was so anxious to get some answers. Will the defense be able to keep games close enough for Manning to win shootouts? Who's going to bring the pressure now that Von is out for a few weeks? Were the Broncos really as good as we think they're going to be? The first half certainly didn't show it. Thank goodness we carried over the momentum of being the best 2nd half team in the NFL. Many overlook the fact that the Broncos were a question mark to start last season. They weren't supposed to be a real threat until year 3. This team is on the fast track thanks to a great front office. Glad to finally get to write some real Broncos news again.
Peyton Manning is the clear cut player of the game. Tying an NFL record 7 TDs in a single game to initiate the 2013 regular season. A feat that hasn't been reached in 44 years. Manning was taking a lot more hits than I was comfortable with, but he stood strong in the line of fire to throw TDs all across the field. Everyone on the offense ate today(ahem...Decker). It's just unfair for a HOF QB like Peyton to have so many weapons all over the field. As much as it seemed the Broncos relied on the pass today, No Flacco threw nearly 20 more passes! A clear cut difference between each QB's ability, but who gets paid more? Manning is on the revenge tour.
Tale of Two Halves
The first half was....frustrating to say the least. Our 3rd down defense was putrid to begin the game. Woodyard was getting swallowed at the point of attack and there was a lot of confusion pre-snap. Without Von, there was zero pressure of the Raven QB in the first half as he sat in the pocket picking the coverage apart. Thoughts of doubt started to creep in. Then the spark happened, Chris Harris. He makes a beautiful play in coverage and undercuts a route and comes up with a beautiful diving interception. And everyone knows what you do after a turnover, go deep! Julius Thomas starts the offensive onslaught with a TD after Manning stood tall in the pocket to take a hit. Though we ended the first half down 3, the juice was already flowing. The Mile High altitude started to kick in and the Raven defense started to quit, literally. And the defense started to get into the party. Getting great pressure and accounting for 4 sacks. That second half was playoff ready football.
Catch Me If You Can
This game showcased the ability of this offense. Julius Thomas and Wes Welker are uncoverable. Julius finally showed the world what he was capable of. Loved the pancake block he had on T Sizzle. Put him on his ass! Best kept secret. It's also unbelievable how consistently Welker gets open from the slot. Multiplied by the fact that they have Peyton Manning throwing them the ball. He's already 1/3 of the way to his TD total last year with the Patriots. Classic case of grass is oranger on the other side. Once the defense changed their focus on them, Peyton just started to looking for the next man up, Demaryius!
Adam Gase gets deserving recognition. He has plays ready as soon as the ball is stopped or hits the ground. He can't wait to relay the next play to Peyton and keep the metal to the pedal. They got faster in the second half and it showed on the Raven's defense. The pace along with the altitude is a major advantage to the home team. It only slowed down when Foxball started and decided to start running the game away. The blown play of our young Trevathan, and the offense needs to kick it back into gear. And that gear is Demaryius Thomas on that reminiscent bubble screen. After this first game, I approve of Adam Gase as our offensive coordinator.
Where's The Beef?
Wanted to show some credit to the beef in the middle of both sides of the ball. It was a little concerning seeing Peyton on the ground so much, but I thought they did a pretty solid job of protecting Manning and giving him ample time to dissect the defense. I was really hoping to at least shut Doom out, but overall I think this line did a great job. The Raven front is tough and full of household names. And on the other side of the ball, the meat in the middle played exceptional football. Little attention will be paid to the bigs, Vick and Knighton. They may not have put up big stats but they plugged holes and even brought plenty of pressure after a slow start. Knighton especially stood out as he maneuvered in tight spaces to "get skinny" and get penetration to cause havoc on the Raven side of the ball. Ray Rice was basically invisible and he's kind of good. Terrance definitely exceeded my expectations.
What were we going to do. The sky is falling and we'll be lucky to have a winning record by the time the suspension was over. No way Ayers puts up Doom numbers. He's on track for a 16 sack season. Hey, why not. and who's going to replace Von's production? Welcome in, Sean Phillips. What a way to start your season with a Super Bowl contender. Phillips was on a roll racking up 2.5 sacks on opening day. Add to that 3 more QB hits. Taking that paycut sure looks good right about now. Rest up Von, we got this.
Little Quick Notes:
- DUKE! It's great to see preseason hype carry over to the regular season. Nacho comes into the picture in a hurry. He lead the team in tackles in his first career start to go along with 3 passes defensed. These weren't 10 yards down the field tackles. These are imposing "get to know me" hits. He's athletic and loves to hit. It's crazy that this kid went undrafted.
- Our rookie, questionable draft pick Kayvon Webster got a little taste of the primetime. He even came up with a big play in the endzone to prevent a TD. Would have loved to see him keep his head on a swivel and make a serious play on that ball and come away with a first game INT. He did however end up giving up a TD later in the game, but he's not so questionable after all.
- Nate Irving consistently makes plays and flashes some major ability. Claiming it now that he will be our unsung hero by year's end.
- Disappointed in Wolfe's output today. He did record 2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, but he was invisible in the pass rush. Far from a J.J. Watt performance. He just seemed to try to overpower his opponent and didn't flash many finesse moves to get past his man. Robert Ayers even flashed a nice stutter and undercut move to get some real pressure on the QB.
- Still putting the ball on the ground. Luckily for Julius, his first target was ruled an incomplete instead of a fumble reminiscent to his preseason fumble. Welker putting it on the ground on punt return is pretty ironic when he's in there in place of Holliday so we wouldn't muff the punts. Even Decker fumbled. Luckily it bounced out of bounds. Trevathan with the big bonehead move like he didn't see Holliday do the same thing last year. Lucky for him, he played an all around great game.
- That Vontae Leach is shaped and plays like a rhino.
- Sure glad I picked up Demaryius and Julius in our MHR fantasy league.
- The Patriots paid more to bring in Amendonthaveclavicles instead of keeping Welker. D'oh!
- Bruton on track to be a Pro Bowl ST representative.
- Brandon Stokley is still making heads up plays. Too bad it was for the Ravens.
- John Harbaugh said that this may be the best secondary he's ever had....pfft
Well, game 1 is in the books. The offense looked unstoppable and unfair. There were concerns of how Peyton will get everyone the ball. Well, he did. 3 players with 2 TDs each and even the 4th WR got in on the TD action. If only Decker didn't have such a poor game, he too would have been in the money. It's going to be a great year everyone. We're only going to get better. Especially around week 7. Go Broncos!