NFL opening night saw the defending Super Bowl champions, Baltimore Ravens, get crushed by the Denver Broncos, 49-27. The first game of the season is always the toughest game and Ravens seemed like a team which lacked the leadership Ray Lewis brought to the team before he retired. At times, especially in the second half, Ravens defense looked tired and not even a prayer could save them from the onslaught of Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense.
The game got off to a rough start due to a 34 minute weather delay because of lightning in the area. The affects of the delay showed on the field as both teams started the game sluggishly, both punting on their first possessions.
Vonte Leach scored the first touchdown of the NFL season by capping off a 10 play, 80 yd drive with a 2 yd TD pass from Joe Flacco. Ravens were able to hold the Broncos scoreless in the 1st quarter and went into the 2nd quarter with the lead, 7-0.
Both teams started the 2nd quarter with punts on their first drives. On the Ravens second drive, Flacco throws an interception to Chris Harris who interestingly enough, was the last player to intercept Flacco last season in Week 15. Manning took advantage of the turnover by throwing a 24 yd TD pass to Julius Thomas to tie the score with the extra point.
Broncos force Ravens to punt the ball on the next drive. Wes Welker muffs the catch and Morgan Cox recovers the fumble for the Ravens inside the DEN 2 yd. line. Ravens capitalize on the turnover with a Ray Rice 1 yd TD run. Broncos then quickly respond with two huge passing plays, one from Manning to J. Thomas for 44 yds, then another pass to J. Thomas for 23 yds, for the TD.
Ravens end the quarter with a 12 play, 82 yd. drive which led to a Justin Tucker, 25 yd FG, to put the Ravens up by 3 going into the half, 17-14. Dallas Clark had a huge drop on 3rd and Goal.
Even though the game was still close, Ravens passing game became stagnant once Jacoby Jones left the game with a sprained knee. Jones was very effective early in the passing game catching 3 passes for 24 yds. With Jones out of the game, Ravens only played with three receivers and were unable to get the offense going afterwards.
The turning point of the game came in the third quarter when Coach John Harbaugh missed an opportunity to challenge Welker’s completion on 3rd down. Replays clearly showed that the ball hit the ground before Welker caught it and on the next play, Manning hit Demaryius Thomas for 34 yds. Manning finished the drive with a 28 yd pass to Andre Caldwell for the TD. If Harbaugh threw the challenge flag, he would have probably won the challenge and force the Broncos to punt the ball while maintaining the lead.
On the next possession, Broncos forced Ravens into a three and out. David Bruton blocked Sam Koch’s punt and the ball was recovered on the BAL 10 yd line. Manning took advantage by completing a 5 yd pass to Welker for the TD. With this TD reception, Welker became the first player in the NFL to catch a TD pass from both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Broncos score on their third straight possession by capping off a 9 play, 63 yd drive with a Manning 2 yd pass to Welker for the TD. Broncos dominate the 3rd quarter by outscoring the Ravens, 21-0, and go into the 4th quarter with a 35-17 lead. Ravens offense looked abysmal, only managing two 1st downs for the whole quarter.
In the 4th quarter, Manning sets a new career high and ties an NFL record for most passing TDs in a NFL game with seven. Manning’s career tying and NFL record tying TDs both went to D. Thomas, one being a 26 yd pass on the first possession in the fourth and another being a 78 yd pass off a WR screen.
Even though this was a near perfect game for the Broncos, Danny Trevathan probably managed to make SportsCenter Not Top 10 plays by releasing the ball before he crossed the goal line to take away a pick 6 and resulting in a touchback instead. This mistake led to a 5 play, 80 yd drive for the Ravens which resulted in a 13 yd completion to Marlon Brown for a TD. Justin Tucker tacks on a 30 yard FG later in the quarter.
49 points are the most points scored against the Ravens in their history.
Key stats: Manning went 27 for 42, 462 yds, 7 TDs. D. Thomas led Broncos receiving with 5 rec. for 161 yds, 2 TDs. J. Thomas contributed with 5 rec. for 110 yds, 2 TDs. Wes Welker also had a good game with 9 rec. for 67 yds, 2 TDs.
Flacco went 34 for 62, 362 yds, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. Ray Rice had 12 carries for 36 yds, 1 TD. Torrey Smith and Dallas Clark led all Ravens receivers with 4 rec. for 92 yds and 7 rec. for 87 yds, respectively.
Watch game highlights here.