Every week, I hope to bring you a quick Q&A with someone who covers the Ravens’ opponent that week. This week, I chatted with Mike Klis, who covers the Denver Broncos for The Denver Post.
MV: I'm sure it has been a crazy whirlwind covering the Broncos over the past 12 months, going from Tebowmania to the passing brilliance of Peyton Manning. Have you ever seen an offense radically change its philosophy from one season to the next while still having so much success?
MK: It has been unique. From college-type option run game to a sophisticated, combination route passing game. The passing game is way more ball control than I thought. It's hardly a “wide-open” offense. It’s a lot of short stuff that sets up the occasional pop downfield.
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MV: As for Peyton, in what ways has he improved -- and maybe even surprised you -- since he arrived in Denver? Some questioned how effective he would be, and it sounds like even he wasn't sure if he could be himself again after all those neck surgeries.
MK: Manning surprised me. I didn't think he'd have much left at 36 and coming off a missed season. His arm is plenty strong enough but if he's lost five miles per hour in recent years, he has compensated.
MV: Second-year outside linebacker Von Miller has put himself in the conversation to be the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. What makes him such a special player? And should Joe Flacco -- and his offensive tackles -- be having nightmares about him and defensive end Elvis Dumervil this week?
MK: Michael Oher is in trouble. You can't block Von Miller one-on-one because he has three assets: speed, athleticism and flexibility. People here talk about how he's able to bend or contort his body to slip from blocks. And he doesn't stop. His sacks -- plus tackles for losses, which I think lead the league -- put him over the top as defender.
MV: How might the Broncos try to stop Ravens wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith?
MK: I think Champ Bailey probably covers Smith and I'm guessing he'll hold him to something like four catches and 40 yards. Boldin, though, is a mismatch. Chris Harris might take him. He’s the Broncos’ most physical corner. But he starts outside and plays inside on nickel. Tony Carter is a very fast, very good cover corner but Boldin can post him up all day.
MV: The Broncos, who look unstoppable right now, are jostling for playoff positioning with the Ravens, New England Patriots and Houston Texans. If need be, is this a team that is capable of winning on the road to get to New Orleans?
MK: The Broncos can win on road because of Manning and their defense. It's a Super Bowl-caliber defense. The question would be whether they can run the ball in January.