Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos: Takeaways from Baltimore's Loss to Denver
Baltimore took a 17-14 lead into halftime, but quarterback Peyton Manning and Denver's explosive offense were simply too much.
Here are some things we learned from Baltimore's season-opening loss.
Michael Oher Is More Valuable to the Team Than Perceived
One of Baltimore's biggest issues against Denver was its inability to sustain drives. That can be credited in part to shaky offensive line play, which mainly occurred after right tackle Michael Oher left the game with an ankle injury.
Rookie Ricky Wagner took his spot in the starting lineup; however, Wagner's below-average performance in pass protection stalled several Ravens drives. Wagner had an impressive showing in the preseason, but Thursday night was a different story.
Perhaps, Oher is more valuable to the Ravens than what was originally perceived.
Arthur Brown Should Start over Josh Bynes
Entering the game, the thought process at linebacker was that Josh Bynes would start, with the rookie Arthur Brown playing in most nickel packages.
However, Bynes was on the field for most of the game, even on obvious passing downs. The choice to keep Bynes in was odd, as he and Brown are completely different players, with Brown being the superior linebacker in coverage.
Brown had few opportunities, with most coming via blitzes up the middle.
To improve the coverage, Brown should be on the field.
Four Cornerbacks Isn't Enough
When the Ravens made their final roster decisions last Saturday, they made the odd choice of keeping just four cornerbacks.
While cornerbacks such as Lardarius Webb and Corey Graham are proven players, four simply isn't enough to play against pass-happy teams like the Broncos.
Playing in the high altitude wore the corners down, which allowed Manning to easily pick them apart for seven touchdowns.
Perhaps, a fifth cornerback needs to be added to the roster.
Four Wide Receivers Isn't Enough Either
Despite six wide receivers on the 53-man roster, the Ravens chose to have just four active for Thursday's game. That backfired quickly, when Jacoby Jones suffered a knee injury in the second quarter that kept him out for the rest of the game.
The Ravens had to operate on offense with just three wide receivers for the majority of the game, which is not a recipe for success.
Of course, the Ravens didn't know Jones would get hurt, but carrying just four active wide receivers is risky enough.
The Ravens Desperately Need Dennis Pitta
The Ravens ran their offense primarily with just two tight ends against the Broncos, using Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark routinely.
However, the only thing routine when the two were on the field was drops, which reflected negatively for both of Baltimore's top tight ends. Dickson's drop issues have always persisted, but Clark's were surprising and unpleasant for the Ravens.
It's safe to say, this isn't the same offense without Dennis Pitta.
Justin Tucker Is Still a Top Kicker in the NFL
After an impressive rookie season, second-year kicker Justin Tucker needed to prove that last season wasn't a fluke and that he can be one of the NFL's top kickers.
He helped his case on Thursday, sending all six of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. The Denver air certainly helped his cause as well.
Tucker also connected on both of his field-goal attempts and was one of the lone bright spots for the Ravens.
John Harbaugh Blew a Prime Opportunity
Early in the third quarter, the Broncos faced a third down, when Peyton Manning threw a pass to Wes Welker, which was ruled a completion for a first down.
The only problem was Welker clearly dropped the pass, and if Ravens head coach John Harbaugh would have challenged the call, the Broncos would have punted the ball away while trailing, 17-14.
Instead, Harbaugh opted not to challenge, which then led to a quick Broncos touchdown, igniting Denver's 35-point second half.
That choice will haunt the Ravens for a few weeks.
The Ravens Will Be Fine Moving Forward
A 49-27 loss to start the season is as bad as it gets, but for the Ravens, the big picture looks much better than just one game.
Keep in mind, the Ravens played with a backup rookie right tackle and just three wide receivers for most of the game. They were facing a revenge-minded Broncos team, which probably would have beat the Ravens regardless of their personnel situation.
Last year, the Ravens had a similar regular-season loss to Denver (34-17, Week 15) and still won the Super Bowl.
There are still 15 games left to be played, and Baltimore has plenty of time to right the ship.