The Ravens showed excellent poise and discipline to beat the Steelers last week. In a stadium where they traditionally implode with mistakes and penalties, the Ravens made the big plays at the end and the Steelers made the mistakes.
In four games this season, the Ravens have had the requisite intensity level twice – against the Jets and Steelers. They were not up to snuff against the Bengals (a loss) and barely there against the Browns (a close win).
Which brings us to Sunday and the Broncos. Kyle Orton's air show arrives at M&T Bank Stadium trailed by considerable skepticism. The Denver quarterback leads the NFL in passes attempted (175) and yards (1,419), and is tied for second with 118 completions.
Orton is averaging almost 44 passes a game, probably more from necessity than design. The Broncos' best rusher, Knowshon Moreno, won't play this week, and the team's next best rusher, Correll Buckhalter is averaging 1.8 yards per carry. The Broncos don't have a running game.
They didn't last year, either, and on a day when the Ravens' defensive intensity was revived in a 30-7 rout, Orton was knocked around a lot -- but didn't throw an interception.The critical matchup today should match the Broncos' receivers – Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney – against the Ravens' secondary. Orton doesn't throw deep, but he throws well in the intermediate zone and the short game. The pass rush may not get to him in time, so the cornerbacks and safeties will have to cover.
In a statistical curiosity, the Broncos have the NFL's No. 1 pass offense and the Ravens the No. 1 pass defense. Neither ranking figures to hold, but this week at least, it pinpoints the key matchup.
If the Ravens play their "A" game with typical intensity, Orton is in for a tough day. If, on the other hand, they come off the Pittsburgh game with a letdown, this might be a longer afternoon than Baltimore bargained for.