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Ravens defense looked dominant, but that might have been thanks to the Broncos

Ravens defense looked dominant, but that might have been thanks to the Broncos
A pass in the end zone eludes Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) while Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) covers during the 2015 season opener. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

The Ravens played a strong defensive game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, but I'm not truly confident in this unit yet.

I don't know if they dominated the Broncos because the Ravens played so well, or because quarterback Peyton Manning played so poorly. Manning looked old and his arm looked tired as he completed 24 of 40 passes for 175 yards.

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One of the worst moments occurred when the Broncos called a waggle pass play for Manning to roll to his right, and he could barely get outside the far shoulder of the right guard to throw. It wasn't because of pressure from the Ravens. Manning was just that slow.

In coach Gary Kubiak's offense, just as it was last year with him in Baltimore, the quarterback has to have good footwork and be able to throw or sprint out on bootlegs and waggles.

Manning can't do either.

When he tried to throw to the far sideline, his passes had no zip which is why cornerback Jimmy Smith intercepted and returned one for a 24 yard touchdown in the third quarter. It was a great read and pick by Smith, but I had time to run down from the press box and pick that pass off.

After that, Manning just threw short passes, which made decision-making easy for the Ravens.

There were a lot of positives to take out of this game for the Ravens. Tackle Brandon Williams was a beast and rookie tackle Carl Davis also played well. I liked the drops inside linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley were getting in pass coverage, and Jimmy Smith as well as fellow cornerback Kyle Arrington and safeties Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis were impressive. I also thought coordinator Dean Pees called an excellent game.

But I did see the Broncos blow past cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb two or three times. If Manning was at the top of his game, those would have been touchdowns. There were times when the cornerbacks should have been more physical and weren't, and I think opposing quarterbacks will go after them in the coming weeks.

This defense also has to show that killer instinct, something that has been lacking the past two years. The Broncos went on a 17-play, 81-yard scoring drive that ended with a 33-yard field goal with 2:55 left in the game. That drive lasted 10:56.

I know the Ravens were tired. They were playing in the high altitude in Denver and the offense couldn't mount any long, serious drives, but the defense has to come up big in these situations.

Just as tight end Crockett Gillmore should have made that catch in the end zone in the final minutes, the defense should have been able to hold Manning and the Broncos on a drive that started at the Denver 4-yard line.

Overall, it was an impressive debut for the Ravens defense, but consistency will be the key.

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