The final humiliation for the Broncos began Sunday afternoon with so much optimism that a 23-7 final-minute loss-to-be-one-sided loss to Baltimore.
As fans dressed in orange and blue filed to fight the traffic, the Ravens remained fans and served their players, each other, and the Broncos with their traditional “Seven Nations Army” promotional song.
Yes, in their stadium, the Broncos had to listen to another team chant, a sucker punch to end a gut-punch type of day when they lost in the first-half to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, failing to make a turnover. Surrendered five sacks, allowed 405 yards, went 3 out of 14 for third and punted 10 times.
That 3-0 start? Half-forgot.
That optimism about crime? half-doubt.
And that belief in the NFL’s top defense? semi-erased.
The Ravens came to town and showed the Broncos how perennial playoff teams do it.
“Extremely disappointing,” said security Justin Simmons. “We knew how important it was, especially staying home and playing with a team like Baltimore. We knew what the stakes were.”
The stakes, in planning for the 17-game season, were modest. The Broncos are still 3-1 and could be tied for the AFC West lead if Las Vegas loses Monday night to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Raiders (3–0) and Arizona (4–0) are the only unbeaten teams in the league.
But this week the bets must be reined in.
The first two seasons split to start the season with coach Vic Fangio losing four and three games each. Minutes after losing to the Ravens, he was already laying the groundwork for next Sunday’s trip to Pittsburgh and surviving a snowball-impact streak.
“We’re on to the next game,” Fangio said. “We can’t get a hangover from this game. We need to bring our focus back from (Monday).”
His starting quarterback may not be decided until Friday as Bridgewater goes through concussion protocol. Drew Locke entered after halftime and was 12-for 21 passing for 113 yards.
However, what should be about when Fangio surveyed the wreckage, is how his usually reliable rescue made a lot of mistakes and made no way out.
The Broncos allowed a per-game average of 59.3 rushing yards, 162.3 passing yards, and 8.7 points.
Baltimore ran for 102 yards, 304 yards and five scoring drives (two touchdowns and three field goals).
Sure, quarterback Lamar Jackson didn’t run wild (28 yards), but he made up for it by completing 22 of 37 passes.
“They basically had their way,” said Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller.
But not in the beginning.
As hard as it was to grasp in garbage time, the Broncos took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter (tight end Noah Faint three-yard touchdown catch) in 42 seconds and were within two possessions by the final 1:51.
It looked like the Ravens had a 30-point lead.
The momentum built by the Broncos trailing Jevont Williams’ 31-yard rumble and Fant’s touchdown was fleeting. Like a fleeting short of less-than-three-minute game-time.
The Ravens responded to the Broncos’ touchdown with a 49-yard thunderbolt—Jackson’s bombshell to catch receiver Marquis Brown dove in the end zone.
Jackson had 3.63 seconds to throw and Brown broke open when Simmons flipped his hips out, kicking him out of position as Brown was driving the deep post.
“More technology than blown coverage,” Fangio said. “We weren’t deep enough there. It shouldn’t happen, but give them credit. (Throwing deep) is what they do and they beat us over it.
It was the longest game allowed by the Broncos’ defense this year.
“(Security) miscommunication with Kareem (Jackson),” Simmons said. “I was hoping for some help, but that’s why I am talking about communication every week. And (if) there are some communication mishaps within the secondary, there will be dramas like that.”
The Ravens had a slew of those chunk plays. Jackson had completed 49, 32, 32, 24, 20 and 17 yards.
“(Secondary) guys, we had to step up and play more than we did,” Simmons said. “You can be good at 80% of plays and it only takes one or two (others) that are really game-changers.”
In turn, the defense could not produce what changed the game. He had three sacks, but he did not rumble forcefully. They had five pass break-ups, but no interceptions.
“I always talk about the biggest emphasis being being able to set up your offense on a small area against the takeaway and a good defense,” Simmons said.
Now we’ll begin to figure out what this Broncos team is actually made of. In Weeks 1-3 he showed he could handle struggling teams. Now we’ll see if they can hit the road against a desperate Steelers team.
“We have to answer,” said Miller. “We have to raise the rack (win). We’ve got a tough Pittsburgh team in Pittsburgh, we need him (the game).”
Offensive Clash of the Broncos
After three solid, if unexpected performances by a Broncos offense to start the season, everything comes to a halt on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens at Empower Field. The ball-control style that produced the NFL’s best average time of possession (36:16) never materialized in the 23–7 defeat. Result: 10 punts, a trio of three-and-out and only two possessions compared to six plays. A look at the disadvantages:
|To drive||quarter||Time||play-net yard||first ascent||Result|
* Drew Locke at quarterback