The Broncos failed their first litmus test of 2021, and saw quarterback Teddy Bridgewater walk out with a jolt in the process.
As Baltimore beat the Broncos 23-7 at Empower Field on Sunday, neither Bridgewater nor backup Drew Locke was able to get the offense into gear. Denver punts 10 times to drop 3-1 along the way.
Led by quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens had all the momentum after Denver took a 7-0 lead.
The Broncos had promise in their early possession, but tight end Albert Okuegbunam dropped a long pass that would have set Denver close to the goal line. The next play was then dismissed, forcing Bridgewater to a punt.
Five more punts followed in total before Javonte Williams eventually handed the Broncos offense and 74,132 at Empower Field. The rookie rumbled for a 31-yard run, during which he missed four potential tacklers and put the crowd on their feet. Baltimore needed a gang of guards to bring him down.
Williams’ big run set up Bridgewater’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Tim Patrick after a few plays and gave Denver a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. The feeling of 4-0 was in the stadium.
But Baltimore found a rhythm on their opening drive of the second quarter, and Latvius Murray’s 11-yard touchdown running at the 10:21 mark drew 7-7. The score was set up by several fine catches by tight end Mark Andrews, who presented a mismatch problem for the Broncos’ defense.
The Ravens also scored quickly on their next drive, with a diving 49-yard touchdown catch from Marquis Brown to put the visitors 14-7. The behind-the-scenes coverage of Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson’s Safari busted “Hollywood” Brown wide open.
Baltimore took a 17-7 lead on a Justin Tucker 40-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer. Tucker’s try was set off by a 42-yard punt return by Devin DuVernay, with a poor angle and poor tackle giving Baltimore a scoring opportunity with only 31 seconds left.
With Bridgewater out for the second half, Denver’s fortunes did not improve. Bridgewater was injured after being struck by Ravens linebacker Odafe Owen in the final game of the first-half offense, and also saw the Broncos exit wideout/punt returner Dionte Spencer with a chest injury.
The Ravens added to their lead with a 13-play, 48-yard drive that culminated in Tucker’s 46-yard field goal. This put Baltimore ahead 20-7 with 13:37. Tucker scored a final field goal late in the game.