Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Mile High mess: Ravens routed in opener

DENVER - The final score doesn't even fully do justice to how one-sided the Ravens' opening game seemed for the majority of the second half.
The Broncos looked every bit the part of the Super Bowl-caliber team many believe they are.
The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens, meanwhile, are a team with legitimate question marks, and that became progressively more evident throughout Thursday's 49-27 loss to Denver Thursday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
Seemingly everything that could go wrong for Baltimore Thursday night did.
Its offense struggled. Its defense was picked apart by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. There were issues on special teams. And to make it all worse, key players Jacoby Jones and Michael Oher both went down with injuries that could be issues going forward.
"Obviously it's a tough loss," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Hats off to the Broncos. They played extremely well. Especially in the third quarter, they executed extremely well, made some plays that they needed to make and they won a big ballgame."
Baltimore led early, but the game quickly spiraled out of control in the second half.
While Flacco and Baltimore's offense sputtered for the most part aside from two extended first-half scoring drives, Manning and Denver's offense proved to be nearly unstoppable for a Ravens defense that had been probably the bright spot of the summer for Baltimore.
The defense contained Manning during the first quarter. But after going just 6 of 12 for 50 yards on the Broncos' first three offensive series, Manning completed 19 of his next 27 passes for 324 yards and six touchdowns during the next quarter and half.
He finished 27 of 42 for 462 yards with seven scoring passes.
His sixth touchdown pass - a 26-yarder to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas - pushed Denver's lead to 42-17 early in the fourth quarter.
After those first three drives that all ended with punts, six of the Broncos' next nine possessions ended with a Manning scoring pass.
Tight end Julius Thomas, wide receiver Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and even little-used wide receiver Andre Caldwell caught touchdown passes from Manning.
Julius Thomas had just one catch during his first two seasons in the NFL, but he had four catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns by the end of the first half Thursday.
He finished with five catches for 110 yards and the two touchdowns.
Both Thomas' and Welker caught multiple touchdowns.
Denver outscored the Ravens 35-10 in the second half.
But for as much as the blame for the game getting out of control during the second half could fall on Baltimore's defense, the struggles of Flacco and the Ravens' offense played a significant role as well.
"It's frustrating," Flacco said. "We were playing a good game, hanging in there. We should've made [certain] plays when they were presented to us.
"Having said that, we were still in the game, and we just started the second half off really bad. ... When you start the half off that badly, and then you're trying to play catch up a little bit, it just didn't go well."
For as much as Baltimore's player downplayed the struggles of the offense during training camp and the preseason, the same things that were issues during the summer once again proved to be problems Thursday night, and it's becoming clear that the offense just is not the same without wide receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Dennis Pitta.
Flacco was methodical in leading an early first quarter scoring drive, which he capped with a 2-yard touchdown pass to fullback Vonta Leach to give the Ravens a 7-0 lead. But following that touchdown, eight of the Ravens' next nine possessions that didn't begin on Denver's 1-yard line ended in either a punt or a turnover.
Flacco finished with 362 yards and two scoring passes, but the numbers were padded some by two fourth quarter scoring drives after the game had already gotten out of hand. And Flacco did also have two interceptions.
Broncos cornerback Chris Harris had the first interception early in the second quarter, and Manning took advantage of it by hooking up with Julius Thomas for a 24-yard touchdown on the next play from scrimmage to tie the score at seven.
Ray Rice's 1-yard touchdown run put Baltimore back in front at 14-7 just a few minutes later after a Wes Welker muffed punt was recovered by Baltimore cornerback Chykie Brown at Denver's 1-yard line. But Manning and Julius Thomas connected for a second scoring pass six plays after Rice's touchdown to tie the game at 14.
The touchdown pass was 23 yards and was set up by a 44-yard Thomas catch-and-run on the play before.
The Ravens had a chance to add a touchdown before the end of the half, but tight end Dallas Clark dropped what likely would've gone for a touchdown on a third-and-goal from the 8-yard line after Flacco had guided Baltimore into scoring position with time running down in the half. The Ravens instead settled for a Justin Tucker field goal.
"Yeah, (that) was disappointing," Flacco said. "Obviously we had a really good drive there. To go all the way down the field, at up the clock and be on their doorstep right there, you want to put the ball in the end zone.
"Having said that, we didn't, we got the field goal and went into halftime feeling good."
But Denver then opened the second half with a scoring drive that ended with a 28-yard Manning touchdown pass to Caldwell.
By the time Baltimore picked up its next first down, the Broncos led 35-17.
"All this game tells us is that we're not going 16-0," Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
NOTES: Jacoby Jones sprained his knee during the first half Thursday when he was run into by teammate Brynden Trawick while fielding a punt. Jones didn't return to the game. Neither did Oher after spraining his ankle on Rice's 1-yard second quarter touchdown run. Oher was replaced by fifth-round pick Ricky Wagner. ... Jones' injury left Baltimore with just three healthy receivers for most of the game, as Deonte Thompson and rookie Aaron Mellette were both inactive. ... Defensive tackle Art Jones (illness), rookie defensive tackle Brandon Williams (toe) and center Ryan Jensen (foot) were also inactive. Rookie outside linebacker John Simon and offensive lineman Jah Reid were healthy scratches, as was Mellette. ... Flacco threw 210 straight passes without an interception prior to being picked off by Harris Thursday. Coincidentally, the last time he was intercepted in a meaningful game prior to Thursday was by Harris during Week 15 of last season. ... The start of the game was delayed 33 minutes because of lightning in the area.