The first game of the season was slipping away from the Ravens when they lined up to make a stand at the goal line against Peyton Manning and the dangerous Denver Broncos offense. After a botched call and a blocked punt, they were suddenly on the verge on falling behind the Broncos by three scores in the third quarter. Trailing 28-17 at the time, the Ravens forced an incompletion on first-and-goal at their 2-yard line. On that play, the Ravens sent the house at Manning and left their three cornerbacks to cover his receivers one-on-one. On the next play, the Ravens went with a similar approach. Corey Graham lined up at left cornerback across from Demaryius Thomas, Denver's leading receiver from a season ago. Next to him in the slot was Lardarius Webb, who matched up with Wes Welker. Jimmy Smith was at right cornerback covering Eric Decker, who was targeted on the previous play, a fade to the back left corner of the end zone.
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The Ravens overloaded the left side of the Broncos offensive line before the snap. But the Broncos rolled the pocket right, away from the eight-man pass rush, and Manning read the pair of wide receivers on his right. It would turn out to be an easy read. While the Ravens lined up their three cornerbacks across from the three wide receivers, they were actually playing zone coverage. Each player was responsible for manning up whoever ran through their zone. There was no confusion for Smith, who was all alone with Decker, but Graham and Webb got mixed up when Thomas and Welker crisscrossed. Graham stuck to Thomas, who ran a slant toward the middle of the field. Webb stayed in his zone and broke towards Thomas, who became his man. Welker was left open in the flat. "We just need to find a way to get things done when it comes to passing off guys and things like that," Graham said. "Honestly, I put that one on myself. I've got to see that. I was locked in on [Thomas] and you've got to see the next guy come out, and I've got to find a way to switch that off."
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Every week, blogger Matt Vensel breaks down a critical play, sometimes with the help of Ravens players and coaches, from that week's game. This week he looks at Wes Welker's second touchdown catch Thursday.