Ravens, Broncos say 2013 opener not relevant to Sunday's matchup
By Jeff Zrebiec The Baltimore Sun|
Sep 10, 2015 | 6:23 PM
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning talks about opening the season against the Baltimore Ravens. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Jimmy Smith listened to the question, stood stone-faced for a moment and then called on the quality that all good cornerbacks have: a short memory.
"Let me really think about this," Smith said when asked what he remembers from the Ravens' last trip to Denver, a 2013 season-opening 49-27 loss to the Broncos in which Peyton Manning tied an NFL record for touchdown passes in a game. "Is that the one he put up seven [touchdowns] against us? I did forget about that. I did."
Unlike a playful Smith, several other Ravens at least acknowledged this week that they recall some aspect of that game. But they dismissed its significance as the Ravens prepare to open another season of lofty expectations in the Mile-High City against the Broncos.
Rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, though, spoke like a man who is haunted by that defeat 24 months later.
"Tons of [memories]. Tons of them. We remember it," Suggs said. "I think Peyton set an NFL record or something like that. But, yeah, we definitely watched a lot of tape of that."
The Ravens, of course, are a starkly different team than they were two years ago when they opened up their Super Bowl defense at Sports Authority Field after a scheduling conflict with the Orioles denied them the usual reigning champion's privilege of playing the NFL Kickoff game at home.
Only 10 players who started that game in 2013 are still in the organization. Only 22 of the 53 players on the active roster back then will be making the trip this week to Denver. Even one prominent member of the Broncos claimed that the game was too long ago to even discuss.
"Two years ago? I don't know if that's still legal to even answer a question on that," Manning joked during a conference call with Baltimore-area reporters Wednesday. "It has kind of passed the statute of limitations, I think."
Manning, who is always measured with his words and careful not to provide any additional motivation for the opposition, surely remembers the night well. He finished the game 27-for-42 for 462 yards, and his seven touchdown passes tied an NFL record that he now shares with six others.
Three Broncos receivers had two touchdown catches each and during one blistering 141/2-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters, Manning threw four touchdown passes. After the game, Suggs, the unquestioned defensive leader with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed gone, tried to put things in perspective. As much as the loss stung a proud defense, it was only one game, Suggs reminded anyone who would listen. He predicted that the Ravens would see the Broncos again in the playoffs.
That never happened. While the Broncos had a 13-3 regular season before losing to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the Ravens endured the worst campaign in John Harbaugh's seven-year tenure. They finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs for the first and only time under Harbaugh.
Their shortcomings against the Broncos proved not to be an aberration, but a sign of things to come. Flacco, who threw two interceptions that night, finished the season with a career-high 22. Ray Rice gained just 36 yards rushing against Denver, the start of his most disappointing NFL season. Big plays haunted their defense all year.
Perhaps what happened in 2013 is why Harbaugh has stressed several times over the past couple of weeks that Week One shouldn't be overemphasized.
"One of the things we've talked to our guys about is the fact that you put so much work into building up to the first game, the first regular-season game. It seems like a pinnacle — it seems like an end — and you're wondering what kind of a team you have, and you're looking forward to seeing it," Harbaugh said. "I know the fans are [excited], and we are, too. And then you sit back and you realize … it's just the first game. There's going to be a whole journey after that, too, so this begins it."
Never one to put too much stock in the past, Harbaugh said earlier this week that the team had reviewed game film from the 2013 game, but it was done more from a "schematic standpoint."
"You watch film and you try and see what you can do to make sure you're not in that same situation again," said outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil. "Give them credit — they beat us that year, nice and good. So this year, completely different team, coaching staff. We're excited. We like our chances."
The Ravens have some good memories at Sports Authority Field, too. During their 2012 Super Bowl run, they beat the host Broncos, 38-35, in double overtime in a divisional playoff contest. That game, which Ravens fans have dubbed "The Mile-High Miracle," is considered one of the greatest victories in franchise history.
"I think both the games I played out there are probably in your mind a little bit," Flacco said. "Myself, I like going there. I have a good feeling about that stadium, even the first time I stepped in and just started warming up. It's a pretty cool place to play. It's a good atmosphere, and I'm excited about going back up there."
Otherwise, Flacco downplayed any motivational effect that the 2013 meeting will have on Sunday's game, noting that it's two different teams set to play. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who claims to have blocked that 2013 game out of his mind, took it even a step further, saying that it makes "no difference."
"I'm not going to sit here and dwell on a game that we didn't play well," Pees said. "I'm going to sit here and draw on the things that are positive and the things that we did do well, and what we can do with this team. This is not the same team that we had. That game means nothing to me. And if any coach sits and looks at a game two years ago, he's a fool."