The Baltimore Ravens opened the 2015 regular season with a 19 – 13 loss on the road against the Denver Broncos. The game was a hard fought defensive struggle in which neither offense was able to get the ball into the red zone until three minutes were left in the fourth quarter. Both the Broncos and Ravens struggled offensively. The Ravens were able to post only 173 total yards of offense while the Broncos put up 219 yards.
Neither team was able to get the ball into the end zone. The only touchdowns came by way of a 24 yard interception return by Jimmy Smith for the Ravens and a 51 yard interception return by Aqib Talib for the Broncos.
The Broncos got off to a hot start on offense for the first couple of series. Manning had Emanuel Sanders open behind the Ravens secondary but couldn’t connect on a few attempts. The Broncos had to settle for two long field goals by Brandon McManus. It took some adjustments by the Ravens defense once they saw what the merge of Gary Kubiak and Peyton Manning’s offense would look like.
The adjustments led to three sacks by the Ravens in the first half. Albert McLellan got it started when he got to Manning after the Broncos offensive line failed to pick him up on a delayed inside blitz. C.J. Mosley also got to Manning the same way for his first sack. He then beat C.J. Anderson to sack Manning for a second time.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees began to send nickel back Kyle Arrington on corner blitz and it disrupted things in a major way for the Ravens. One of the early deep attempts by Manning to Sanders was an overthrow as the result of a rushed throw caused by Arrington coming off the edge. Arrington had multiple quarterback hurries against the Broncos.
The biggest play of the game for the Ravens defense came when an Arrington blitz caused Manning to throw to Jordan Norwood on a hot read. Jimmy Smith read Manning perfectly and used his height to tip the ball to himself and take it in for the only Ravens touchdown of the game.
Pees said that it was important to make the Broncos one dimensional. It is no secret that Kubiak likes to run the football. Stopping the run was of major importance to the Ravens and they did just that. The Broncos had only 69 yards rushing and the bulk of them came on the last drive which took up more than ten minutes. That drive started on the Denver four yard line. The result was a 33 yard field goal that put them ahead 19 -1 3.
The Ravens had a chance to pull off the win on their last drive. They got the ball on their own 20 yard line with 2:55 left and two timeouts. Joe Flacco was able to keep the drive alive when he completed a 14 yard throw to Crockett Gillmore on a fourth down. Marc Trestman made a timely play call on third down at the Broncos 39 yard line. The toss sweep was perfect against the blitz and Justin Forsett was able to get outside for a 19 yard gain.
Flacco tried to go to Steve Smith Sr. in the end zone but a deflection by Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby caused the ball to bounce off of Smith’s hands. Smith is very likely to have scored the go ahead touchdown if Roby didn’t redirect the throw.
The drive ended on an interception by former Raven Darian Stewart. Flacco tried to give Gillmore a chance to make a play on the seam route in the end zone but David Bruton Jr. was able to keep the Ravens tight end from securing the catch. Stewart swooped in to cradle the ball after it was deflected.
The Ravens were already dealing with the loss of Timmy Jernigan who was inactive for the game. Things got worse for them when Terrell Suggs suffered a torn Achilles and was lost for the season. Rookie outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was inactive against the Broncos but will be relied upon heavily with Suggs out for the year.
The team will stay on the west coast for their game in Oakland against the Raiders next week. The Raiders have two really good outside pass rushers in Khalil Mack and the newly signed Aldon Smith. Left tackle Eugene Monroe suffered a concussion early in the game and didn’t return. If he is ruled out next week, the Ravens could have trouble against the Raiders.