The purple-and-black clad Ravens long have been the NFL's bruise brothers. With linebacker Ray Lewis leading the bullying, the Ravens' defense beat people up and laid down the law, especially when playing at home.
The Broncos know that first-hand. They are 0-5 against the Ravens in Baltimore, including a 21-3 wild-card playoff loss in 2000. But this year's Broncos believe they are developing their own rock 'em, sock 'em defense.
"I think [offensive coordinator Jack] Del Rio has preached from Day 1 that he wants gritty, tough guys on this defense," said defensive tackle Justin Bannan, who played for the Ravens from 2006-09. "Tough guys get you through the hard times, especially when it's late in the season. I think we have done a good job of that this year, and I like what we have."
Linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who expects to return to the lineup Sunday after missing Thursday's victory at Oakland because of a sprained ankle, said the Broncos' fifth-ranked defense is beginning to peak at the right time.
"After my five years here, our defense is finally not feeling like a red-headed step child," Woodyard said. "We have good players who are in the right place to make plays. We are still continuing to grow every week."
Woodyard said sitting out the Raiders game was the smart move, leaving him ready to go for the Ravens and the regular season's stretch run.
"It was definitely a great decision. I got healthy," he said. "I was sitting on the couch, cheering. It was actually a different experience. I got to be a fan for a change; sit back, have my feet propped up and just enjoy the game and watching my teammates."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron Monday, replacing him with quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell. The Broncos don't anticipate the move will dramatically shake up the Ravens' gameplan.
"It's hard to say, because I haven't seen what [Harbaugh] is going to do. I wouldn't suspect them to change a whole lot," Broncos coach John Fox said. "In one week, they're not going to make wholesale changes."
Praise for Flacco, Rice
Though the Ravens have lost two consecutive games, they have the Broncos' respect. Quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice, in particular, are the center of Denver's focus.
"I think Flacco — before it's all said and done — will be considered one of the greats in this business," Bannan said. "I think Ray Rice is a phenomenal player. He and the guy from Tampa Bay ([oug Martin] are very similar, so I feel like our guys have had a good taste of what to expect."
The Broncos held Martin to 56 yards on 18 carries in Denver's 31-23 victory over the Buccaneers in Week 12.
Though Woodyard said he expects to play Sunday, he did not fully participated in practice Monday. Neither did right guard Chris Kuper, who also missed the Raiders game because of an ankle injury. ... The Broncos signed offensive tackle Paul Cornick to their practice squad.
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