The Denver Broncos have won nine games in a row and should no longer be doubted as one of the elite teams in football. The Broncos beat up on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday en route to a 34-17 victory that pushed their record to 11-3.
Despite a flurry of wins, no one was quite sure how good of a team the Broncos were because they hadn't yet beaten any “good” teams. The Ravens came in atop the AFC North with nine wins and as the No. 3 seed in the AFC.
Say what you want about the Ravens, but they certainly aren’t a “bad” team.
The Broncos made a statement by not only winning the game, but blowing out the Ravens in Baltimore. It’s hard to win on the road and it’s even harder to win on the road in Baltimore. A skeptic would say the Ravens were banged up coming into the game, but at some point the obvious has to be acknowledged—the Broncos are for real.
It would be one thing if the Broncos were backing into victories and winning games only because of Manning’s ability to throw the ball, but the Broncos have won games in a variety of different ways. On Sunday in Baltimore, the defense and special teams were more dominant than the offense.
No play was bigger on Sunday than one by cornerback Chris Harris. Joe Flacco had his team in position to cut Denver’s lead to three points when Harris intercepted his pass late in the second quarter and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown.
The play put the Broncos up 17-0 and basically eliminated any chance of the Ravens getting back into the game.
The Ravens got the ball to start the third quarter and a score at the end of the half would have completely changed the complexion of the game. The Ravens ultimately got a field goal on the first drive of the third quarter, which at worst would have put the Ravens within four points had Harris not intercepted the pass.
With a 17-3 lead, Denver’s offense, defense and special teams worked together to put the Ravens away.
Manning hit Eric Decker for a 51-yard touchdown to put the Broncos up 24-3 in the third quarter, the defense forced a three-and-out, Trindon Holliday returned a punt 27 yards, Joel Dreessen caught a pass for 28 yards and Knowshon Moreno had a six-yard touchdown run.
It didn’t take long for the Broncos to turn a big lead into a 31-3 stinker. The Ravens scored a couple of touchdowns in garbage time to get the final score.
After the first Ravens touchdown, the Broncos controlled the clock with a drive lasting almost 10 minutes that featured 13 combined runs by Moreno and Ronnie Hillman.
Perhaps the only blemish on Sunday was that the Ravens were able to score two touchdowns by throwing to the tight end, and both were on big plays. If the Ravens had marched down the field against a soft defense with a big lead, this would be a non-factor, but big plays can change the game quickly.
The Broncos will not always have a big lead or be able to burn 10 minutes off the clock with only the run like they have most of this season.
The Broncos have also had some issues covering tight ends this season, and Denver’s path to the Super Bowl will likely run through the New England Patriots, who have two of the best tight ends in the league.
Denver’s last two games come against the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs at home. It’s hard to imagine the Broncos losing either of those games unless they rest starters in the final game, and even then a loss would be surprising given how the Chiefs are playing.