When the Ravens' top-ranked pass defense meets the Denver Broncos' top-ranked pass offense Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, the secondary will have to contain a wide receiving corps that no longer boasts Brandon Marshall, the Pro Bowler who now plays for the Miami Dolphins.
Instead, Denver's top receivers include a pair of journeymen in Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney, a possession receiver in Eddie Royal and a rookie in Demaryius Thomas.
But the lack of a true No. 1 receiver shouldn't dilute Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton's ability to find the open guy, according to several Ravens players.
"That makes you spread the ball around, which makes it much harder for a defense to cover," free safety Tom Zbikowski said. "But they've got guys that are making plays, yards after catch, yards after contact, and once again, he's got the arm to be able to make throws down the field."
Denver's offensive scheme borrows elements from the traditional West Coast offense, but cornerback Fabian Washington cautioned against thinking that the Broncos will dink-and-dunk their way down the field Sunday.
"They have their shot elements," he said. "It's not just a straight 9-route, but they have deep comebacks. From what I've seen so far, those are shots for them because they give you a max-protect look and run two 24-yard comebacks. At that point, the defensive back is thinking deep ball. But when they stop, Orton is getting the ball to those guys, and the receivers are making plays."
Added outside linebacker Jarret Johnson: "They do have a lot of short routes, but they can throw the ball down the field, and they get a lot of passes based off the run. They do a really good job with their play-action. It looks exactly like a run, and there'll be a one-man route on the backside and it's really, really tough to defend. A lot of guys will run play-action, and what they're trying to play-action, they don't even have that run. And they have guys going in opposite directions. These guys actually run a running play and he just pulls it out and throws it backside, and it's tough to defend."