We knew the Ravens would be in the nickel a lot against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, who have a formidable trio of wide-outs in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker. They probably had to use it even more than expected as the Broncos went three-wide on more than three-quarters of their plays.
Looking at the NFL’s official snap counts from Thursday’s 49-27 loss, I noticed that Jimmy Smith played 68 of their 71 defensive snaps. Corey Graham played 65 snaps. And Lardarius Webb played 62 in his first real game after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.
Safety James Ihedigbo played every snap and fellow safety Michael Huff played 61, at times taking a seat so first-round pick Matt Elam could see some action. Elam played just 13 snaps on defense, though.
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Manning completed 27 of 42 passes for 462 yards and seven touchdowns, which tied an NFL record.
Here are other observations from the official snap counts:
--- The Ravens also used their 11 personnel a lot in the loss. When Jacoby Jones left the game with a knee injury, they had just three active receivers, meaning newcomers Marlon Brown and Brandon Stokley got a lot of work. Torrey Smith played 87 of their 89 offensive snaps. Brown, who replaced Jones in two-wide sets, played 67. Slot guy Stokley played 57.
--- Right tackle Michael Oher played 33 snaps before exiting with an ankle injury. His replacement, rookie Rick Wagner, played 58 snaps. Veteran backup Jah Reid was inactive. The other four starting linemen played all 89 offensive snaps.
--- Interestingly, second-round pick Arthur Brown played just six snaps. During training camp and the preseason, he had been playing in the nickel package. But on Thursday night, the Ravens kept starter Josh Bynes on the field at weak-side linebacker even though Bynes didn’t appear to have a great game in coverage. Brown did get 26 snaps on special teams.
--- Rush linebacker Terrell Suggs played 59 snaps. Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw, who split time at strong-side linebacker, played 40 and 37 snaps, respectively, so that was a pretty even distribution. Backup pass rusher Pernell McPhee, who was on the injury report this week, played 12 snaps.
--- The Ravens used their 12 personnel a decent amount in the first half, but when the game started getting out of hand, they usually used just one tight end. Dallas Clark played 60 snaps. Ed Dickson, who made his return from a torn hamstring, played 39. Blocking tight end Billy Bajema played 10.
--- With Arthur Jones and Brandon Williams sidelined, five defensive linemen were active and got at least one snap. Nose tackle Haloti Ngata led the way with 51, which was 72 percent of the snaps. Marcus Spears, who started in place of Jones at defensive tackle, played 33. Terrence Cody played 22.
--- Ray Rice played 53 snaps, 20 more than Bernard Pierce.
--- Brynden Trawick and Albert McClellan led the Ravens with 37 special teams snaps. Chykie Brown, Anthony Levine, Kyle Juszczyk and Elam all got at least 30 on special teams.