2013 Game #1 — Denver: 49 – Ravens:27

Not the start the Reigning Super Bowl Champions envisioned — but not surprising given the huge challenge of facing Peyton Manning in Mile High on game #1.  During the first half it seemed like the Ravens were in control of the game and should have had a 7 point lead at the half if Dallas Clark had hung on to the TD after an excellent drive to close out the half.  It just takes a couple of plays for things to get out of hand.  The non challenge by the Ravens coaching staff was huge; the blocked punt is always a difficult obstacle to overcome.  Here are my quick observations:

1) Tight End is  a huge problem for us without Dennis Pitta.  Dallas Clark probably had his worst game as a pro.  He looks old and slow — hopefully it was more rust from inactivity.  He will not be able to get any separation and right now he is dropping too many passes.  We gave him far too many opportunities.  Ed Dickson did not play much better.  Flacco laid the passes in there — admittedly in difficult spots with defenders coming up to make hits — but it does not seem like we can rely on Dickson for clutch receptions either.  That does not not leave us anywhere to turn since we require production out of this spot.

2) The health of our offensive line could be the key to our season.  It was disturbing to see Oher go down with friendly fire after Yanda rolled up on his ankle.  We do not have depth at the offensive line positions.   The line will be a strength for us — but only if we stay healthy.

3)  Our rookies need to contribute more.  Brynden Trawick’s only highlight was crashing into Jacoby Jones and taking him out of the game on the punt return — turns out he has a  knee sprain.  That showed his inexperience on special teams.  Arthur Brown did not see much action early on except on special teams — despite the weakness of Josh Bynes in pass coverage.  Bynes was a non factor and Manning abused our linebackers all night.  The only bright spot in the rookie group was undrafted Marlon Brown who looks like the real deal.  When is Matt Elam going to see the field as a starting safety?

4) You can’t let a QB complete 7 TD passes — no matter how out of hand the game gets.  Manning showed that he has been chewing over that last defeat in the playoffs for 7 months.  He came ready to play and still seems to have plenty of life left in his arm.  He fooled our secondary and confused us on a number of occasions.  Otherwise, his precision just was too much for a defense that is still learning to communicate and play together.  We were unable to get any type of push up the middle to chase him out of the pocket.  He seemed to have a clear site line for all of his passes.

5) It was surprising to see the Ravens loose their poise and commit some silly fouls in the second half out of frustration.  The Ravens were the most penalized team in football last season — that has to change.

6)  The jury is still out for me on the acquisition of Stokley.  He also is old and slow.  Flacco is in danger of more interceptions as he throws to Stokley and Clark with defenders hanging all over them and undercutting the routes to try for picks.

7) The Broncos had an excellent defensive plan of trying to take away our two main weapons: Torrey Smith down the field (he was blanketed most of the night) and Ray Rice in both the running and short dump-off game.  We need more weapons to put pressure on the defense.

8) Our defense was definitely gassed in the mile high air — especially in the hot temperatures.  We just had not played the starters enough in preseason and in practice to build up that type of endurance for the fast-paced offense of Peyton Manning — but there is no way we could for the first game of the season.  We just have to write this game off and move on.  It proved to be too difficult of a challenge.

At least everyone can agree that we are not peaking too early!