Ravens vs. Broncos: Top Takeaways from NFL's Season Opener
The Baltimore Ravens were humiliated by the Denver Broncos to the delight of the home crowd on Thursday night to open the 2013 NFL season.
Peyton Manning was like a god amongst men, tossing seven touchdowns without throwing a single interception—tying the NFL record for most touchdowns in a single game, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
Peyton Manning ties an NFL record with his 7th TD pass of the game— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 6, 2013
He turned unknown tight end Julius Thomas into a fantasy football superstar in one night, leading an offensive charge that completely overwhelmed Baltimore's defense.
The final score was 49-27, and as noted by Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, it was the most points allowed by the Ravens in the history of the franchise:
The 49 points are the most the Ravens have ever allowed.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) September 6, 2013
After Ray Rice scored on a one-yard touchdown run to put the Ravens up, 14-7, midway through the second quarter, the Broncos went on a 35-3 run to put the game out of reach.
Manning was masterful, and Baltimore was helpless to stop the onslaught.
But what does it all mean going forward?
One game certainly won't define the season for either of these clubs.
Baltimore won't shrivel up and die after getting punched in the face. As long as John Harbaugh is running the show, the Ravens will be competitive, and you can be sure he'll waste no time fixing what was broken on Thursday night.
The Broncos looked unstoppable, but there were a few glaring issues that were covered up by Manning and his incredible group of receivers.
In the end, this was just one of 16 games on the schedule for these two veteran teams.
With that in mind, here are a couple of the biggest takeaways from Thursday night's action from Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Denver Will Be Tough to Beat at Home in 2013
Manning and offensive coordinator Adam Gase had the Ravens on their heels from the second quarter on through till the end of the game.
Gase was calling in plays as soon as humanly possible, and Manning—a no-huddle expert since his days in Indianapolis—took advantage of seemingly every hole in Baltimore's defense.
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil both looked like Pro Bowlers at times against Denver's offensive line, but in the end, the Ravens could only generate three sacks. For the most part, the Broncos protected Manning well.
The real takeaway from Denver's offensive output on Thursday was the speed in which Manning and Gase were able to run plays. Baltimore's defense didn't have the luxury of substituting players very often, and by the third quarter, the players were simply gassed.
Playing in Denver isn't easy, as the altitude makes it harder to breath. Denver's fast-paced offense magnified this fact against Baltimore, and as the season unfolds, it's only going to get easier for the Broncos to wear opponents out at home.
The combination of receivers Manning has to work with gives him the ability to attack opposing defenses vertically and horizontally. More often than not, someone will be open between Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas.
As opposing players get gassed because of the mile-high altitude, Denver's offense will put up points in bunches like we saw on Thursday night.
The Ravens Are in Trouble on Offense
Baltimore's defense played like it lost a couple of Hall of Famers this past offseason—which it did. Ozzie Newsome did a nice job bringing in players like Daryl Smith, Chris Canty and Dumervil to augment his roster, but it's going to take time for the players to build chemistry.
Giving up 49 points is never a good thing, but there is enough talent on the roster to turn things around on the defensive side of the ball.
The big issue facing the Ravens this year is the lack of talent the team has on offense.
Anquan Boldin was discarded for a bag of peanuts this offseason in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. He was Joe Flacco's anchor last year in the playoffs, catching 22 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns in four postseason games.
The Ravens were counting on tight end Dennis Pitta to become Flacco's go-to receiver this year after Boldin's departure, but a devastating hip injury has him shelved for the time being. He was placed on the short-term IR and could return later this season, but his absence is being acutely felt right now.
In Pitta's place, the Ravens are now counting on the duo of Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark.
Dickson couldn't catch a cold last night, and the ever-steady Clark is noticeably slower than he used to be in his old age (34). Clark ended the night with eight receptions, but he isn't a dynamic weapon in the middle any more.
Can the Ravens repeat in 2013 with current receiving corps?
Flacco's top targets on Thursday included Ray Rice (11 targets), Clark (12 targets) and Brandon Stokely (10 targets), who at the age of 37, has lost whatever speed he may have once possessed.
This group of receivers isn't going to get it done for the Ravens this year. When your top targets are your running back and a couple of over-the-hill players, you have a serious problem.
Torrey Smith was highly effective last year as Boldin's sidekick, but there isn't anyone on the roster capable of being his sidekick this year.
Of further note on Thursday was the disparity between run and pass for the Ravens. Flacco attempted 62 passes on the night compared to just 21 rushing attempts between Rice and Bernard Pierce.
Granted, it's hard to establish a running game when down by multiple touchdowns, but the Ravens must establish some balance going forward to mask the lack of talent in the receiving corps.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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