What a great night of sleep I had. A big win for the Broncos always lets me sleep like a baby. I woke up this morning refreshed, looking forward to, what esteemed contributer KoolAid so astutely pointed out, a second BYE week. And though I do subscribe to the "any given Sunday" theory, there is no way Shanahan will let this team ease up getting ready for the Raiders. Let's take one last look back at last night and revel in our huge win.
The Weather Outside Is Frightful -- If it is October in Denver it can only mean one thing. Anything. On Friday and Saturday it was 80 degrees. Tonite, snow and temperatures plummeting into the 30's. It all equals a game, that wasn't going to be high on offense anyway, will be even closer and lower scoring. The field will be soft, the ball slick, and it is going to be important to win the turnover battle.
It didn't look good early on, but in the end the Broncos did win the turnover battle 3-2. Once again the Broncos defense rose to the occassion, holding the Ravens to a field goal after Tatum Bell's fumble in the 1st Quarter. The red-zone defense, #1 in the NFL coming in, flexed it's muscle again at the end of the 1st half intercepting Steve McNair's ill-fated fade route.
Jake Plummer, Outdoorsman -- If one thing concerns me about this game it is the weather, and Jake's obvious distaste for the cold and elements. Two games come to mind, both in Denver, both in bad weather, both losses, where Jake looked, well, not so happy about being outside. Against the Bears a couple of years ago, in a game that was cold, and the infamous Raider game in a blizzard. It is going to be important that Jake play well, and not make the big mistake.
For about 50 minutes of this game Jake Plummer looked miserable, seemingly playing to get off the field and back into his parka as quickly as possible. Playing with a glove on his throwing hand, Plummer's accuracy, never a strength to begin with, was even worse, with several passes sailing high or behind intended and often open receivers. When it counted, however, Jake made the plays down the stretch, including a gutsy third down Quarterback sweep during the Broncos' go-ahead drive. Here's hoping we have some good weather next Sunday Night, because if anything can level a playing field it's the elements.
One, Two, Three, Punt, Repeat -- Be prepared for several 3 and outs, several punts for both teams, and the pressure on the punters to secure field position. It is going to be important for the Broncos' offense, especially head coach Mike Shanahan, to be patient and let the game come to us. There might only be a couple of opportunites for a big play, and when it's there the Broncos need to capitalize.
If the Champ Bailey interception wasn't the play of the game, it was the shank punt by the Ravens that lead to the Broncos' go-ahead drive. Todd Sauerbrun will probably be looking for work today as Paul Ernster did a great job maintaining field position. Sure, he didn't have a punt downed inside the 10, but by keeping the Ravens hovering around the 13 yard line in the 2nd half made sure that Baltimore was going to have to go 60+ yards just to get into field gaol range. The defense kept the pressure on and never let McNair get comfy in the pocket.
As I discussed, there were opportunites for some big plays that Plummer wasn't able to capitalize on, but in the end made enough to get the win.
Nice To Meet You -- For the first time in the regular season the Broncos face Steve McNair, and overall they haven't faced him since the 1996 pre-season. McNair can look lousy for an entire game, only to turn it on when it counts. It is going to be important for the Broncos to contain McNair and not let him get into a comfort zone.
I have to give a Guru Salute to Larry Coyer and Mike Heimerdinger. Heimerdinger was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee during McNair's glory years, and it was obvious that Heimerdinger and Coyer got together to discuss waht gives McNair trouble. The Broncos mixed up there schemes and coverage beautifully all night long, magnified on one play, when NT Gerrard Warren dropped into coverage and nearly intercepted a pass, that was picked by Dominique Foxworth. Through three games, against some teams that can put points on the board, has been dominant, and when you play in weather like was out there last night it's exactly the type of defense that needs to be played.
THE RESULT -- The Broncos have won 11 straight regular season games at home. I have watched the Baltimore Ravens the past two weeks, struggling to win both times. It is a defense that is fast and agressive, but can be exploited. There will be big plays available and the Broncos will make a few here and there. I like the Broncos, 17-13
Make it 12 in a row at home, though the weather stunted the scoring a little more than I had picked. The Ravens team I watched the past two weeks showed up again, struggling to score, making critical mistakes at crucial times, and this time Steve McNair couldn't save them. I am excited about the win, but the Ravens were about 1 minute from being a 2-3 team so I am trying to keep it in perspective.
Time to turn the page on Week 5, and officially open the flood gates on RAIDER WEEK, baby!