With few hitches, Ravens pass defense handles Broncos passing game

Matched up against the NFL's top-ranked aerial attack, the Ravens' secondary proved it could compete.

Except for a pair of long drives to end the second and fourth quarters, the unit clamped down on the Denver Broncos' high-octane passing game and played a vital role in the team's 31-17 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.

In a showdown between the league's most prolific pass offense and stingiest pass defense, it was the latter that prevailed.

"We're not as bad as what people thought," cornerback Fabian Washington said of a secondary that had been frequently cited as the defense's vulnerability in the preseason. "That's pretty much what it is. It was an opportunity to go out and show the world that, hey, everybody's saying we played against just running teams, and that's why we had success. I think we had a lot of success today versus a predominantly passing team."

Not that the secondary, which activated all five cornerbacks, didn't have its hiccups. Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton completed 23-of-38 passes for 314 yards, and he connected with wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for touchdowns of 42 and 44 yards.

"We're not completely satisfied with the play because we feel like we need to finish it for the whole entire game," cornerback Chris Carr said. "We should be able to dominate them through the whole game and not give up anything. But the name of the game is to play consistently well throughout the game, and we did a good job of that today."

Indeed. Outside of those two touchdown drives, Denver managed just 197 yards of offense. Washington broke up a game-high four passes, and Josh Wilson and Lardarius Webb added two and one pass break-ups, respectively.

"We wanted to go against the best," free safety Tom Zbikowski said. "That's what you want to do as a secondary, to compare and see where you're at. Up against the No. 1 passing offense, there's a reason why they are. They're on rhythm a lot, they've got very talented receivers that have very good ball skills, and they've got a quarterback that can put it in there on time. So us getting that pressure early on and making them feel uncomfortable really helped us out."

Ngata goes in

Haloti Ngata appeared to be the primary target on the Ravens' fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first quarter, but the defensive tackle said he knew he was covered by safety Darcel McBath, which allowed linebacker Jason Hunter to sack Joe Flacco.

"I knew there was somebody on top of me," Ngata said. "I saw Joe look, and I thought, 'He'll probably just throw it away.' Those guys were quick enough to get to him and they got a sack."

Said Flacco: "Maybe I should've taken a shot and just tried to fire it in at him and see if it would've stuck to him. He has great hands though, so I don't have to be afraid of throwing him the ball."

Ngata, who twisted his knee on the play but returned later, said he wasn't sure whether that would conclude his career as an option on offense.

"I don't know," he said. "We'll see what the coaches think about it."

McGahee's missed chance

Although he scored on a 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, running back Willis McGahee couldn't shake the memory of another scoring chance.

On the offense's opening possession, he was stopped twice from the 1. Afterward, McGahee said it appeared that Denver's defense knew that he was going to get the ball.

"I'm kind of mad I didn't get in on that first one," he said. "It's like they were waiting on me. They were cut-blocking and everything, and they kind of made me hesitate. But it's my job to get in there and I didn't get in there."

Redding's first sack as Raven

Cory Redding registered his first sack as a Raven when he dropped Orton for a 7-yard loss in the second quarter, but the defensive end credited outside linebacker Jarret Johnson for assisting him.

"I wouldn't have gotten it if it wasn't for him," Redding said. "He had a good pick and kept the tackle occupied. So I just ran around as fast as I could and at worst, get pressure. He still had the ball in his hands, so credit to Double-J."

Redding, who sat out last Sunday's win against the Pittsburgh Steelers because of a concussion, said he was playing tentatively because of the injury.

"I just had to get that concussion out of my head," he said. "The first series, I had it in my head and I wasn't playing myself. So I had to calm down, say a quick prayer, go out there and play, and let the chips fall where they may."

Jones, Phillips make impression

Linebackers Edgar Jones and Jason Phillips delivered the hit of the season when they sandwiched Denver kick returner Demaryius Thomas and forced the rookie to fumble in the second quarter.

Jones went high and Phillips went low, and it was Jones who ripped the ball from Thomas.

"If you watched those guys, sometimes they over-set and things like that," Jones said. "So instead of me coming down and trying to run over him, I made a move like I was going to hit him and I ran outside of him. Once I was back there, I just saw him and took a shot. … While he was running, I just saw that ball in his right arm, and I just took that shot."

The offense converted that takeaway into a 37-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff to give the Ravens a 17-0 advantage. Said Phillips: "To get my first big hit in the league was a lot of fun, but just to be able to get the ball back to the offense in that situation, it's good for us in this league. For us to be able to get up 17 on somebody, that helped a lot."

End zone

Taking over for Jalen Parmele on kick returns, Wilson gained 60 yards on three returns Sunday. "It feels good to be able to help the team," he said. "Any way I can help, I want to be a part of it. I just want to make sure that I can keep getting at it and do something to change the game." … Former Raven defensive end Justin Bannan , who signed with the Broncos in the offseason, finished with five tackles in his return to Baltimore. "To me, I just wanted to approach it as another game," said Bannan, who was greeted by former teammates Kelly Gregg, Johnson and Ngata, among others, after the game. "I didn't want to get wrapped up in all the emotion of it." Added Ngata: "It was kind of weird seeing him over there [on the opponent's sideline]. … But it's good to see that he's still working and doing his thing." … Every Ravens player wore pink in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October. The movement was especially poignant to Redding, who wore pink shoes and pink wristbands. "A coach's friend of mine is battling breast cancer right now, and my sister has ovarian cancer," he said. "There's a lot of women in my life that are going through that right now. So just to wear the shoes and represent every woman, it's a good thing to do." … Contrary to previous reports, the Ravens did not wear black jerseys against the Broncos. The team is scheduled to wear black jerseys against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 28 and the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 19. … The Ravens deactivated rookie tight end Dennis Pitta for the first time. The Ravens also scratched offensive tackles Jared Gaither (thoracic disk in back) and Scott Kooistra, defensive tackles Lamar Divens and rookie Arthur Jones, wide receiver Donte' Stallworth (broken left foot), linebacker Tavares Gooden (dislocated left shoulder) and defensive end Paul Kruger (sprained medial collateral ligament in left knee). … The Broncos had the services of cornerback Andre Goodman, who had been limited last week due to a quadriceps injury. Also, rookie Tim Tebow backed up Orton. Denver deactivated offensive linemen Chris Clark, Stanley Daniels and Eric Olsen, running back Knowshon Moreno (hamstring), fullback Spencer Larsen (ankle), wide receiver Eric Decker and cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson. Brady Quinn is the third (emergency) quarterback. … Outside linebackers Johnson and Prescott Burgess and center Matt Birk represented the Ravens for the pre-game coin toss.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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