3 Things the Denver Broncos Still Need to Do to Improve

Travis WakemanCorrespondent IISeptember 11, 2013

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 5: Linebacker Steven Johnson #53 of the Denver Broncos celebrates a big defensive play against the Baltimore Ravens during the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 5, 2013 in Denver Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos opened the 2013 campaign with a convincing 49-27 defeat of the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

With a 22-point victory combined with the fact that Peyton Manning threw an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes, it's easy to say that this was a perfect performance.

But it actually wasn't. The Broncos trailed 17-14 at halftime. In the first half, the Ravens looked like the better team.

After a 10-yard completion to Wes Welker early in the third quarter that replays revealed was not a catch, the Broncos turned the game around.

Not only did that play occur on 3rd-and-9, but a simple challenge from the Baltimore coaching staff would have led to the call on the field being overturned. Instead of having to punt, the Broncos stole the momentum and rode it for the rest of the game.

On the next play, Manning hit Demaryius Thomas for a 34-yard gain. Two plays later, Andre Caldwell caught his first touchdown pass as a member of the team. This gave Denver its first lead of the night, and the Broncos never looked back.

It had to feel good to get the bad taste of last year's playoff loss to Baltimore out of their mouths, but as the Broncos prepare for a Week 2 battle with the New York Giants, the team still has three areas where it can improve.


Establish a Running Game

If Manning is going to throw seven touchdown passes every week, then the Broncos may not need a running game. But as good as he is, that is unlikely to happen.

Denver running backs had just 21 carries against the Ravens, and none of them averaged more than four yards per carry.

Knowshon Moreno got the start mainly due to his ability to protect the quarterback, and he led the team with just nine carries. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman had little to do with the outcome.

Yes, the Broncos will be a pass-happy team this season, and the league is clearly trending in that direction. Still, having a balanced offense will be beneficial in the long run.

Offensive coordinator Adam Gase's new fast-paced offense looked like something many teams in the league won't be ready for. However, creating a legitimate running game will make catching up to this offense nearly impossible.


Protect the Quarterback

Last season, the Broncos gave up just 21 sacks all year. That was the second-lowest total in the NFL. This season, they have already given up three.

On one of those, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was able to beat All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady to bring Manning down. Clady only gave up one sack all of last season.

Things like this get lost in the shuffle of a huge victory, but the Ravens found success getting to the quarterback. The last thing the Broncos want is for Manning to take too many hits.

If he is going to drop back and throw 42 passes every week, a lot will be asked of the Denver offensive line.


Cover the Tight End

This was possibly the biggest problem the team had in 2012. The Broncos simply could not cover the tight end.

The defense appeared to address this going into this season, and safety Rahim Moore was able to deliver this big hit on Dallas Clark. Moore jarred the ball out, which resulted in an incomplete pass.

Still, the Ravens completed eight passes to their tight ends for 100 yards, with Clark accounting for the majority of that.

Clark hasn't had more than 50 receptions in a season since 2009, and he is far from the best tight end that the Broncos will face this year. Hopefully, the defense finds a way to contain them better this season.

The Broncos had an excellent performance in Week 1—one that could fuel them for the rest of the season. But it is also too early to assume that every game will follow the same script.

Though power rankings mean nothing officially, ESPN doesn't feel the Broncos are the best team in the league. Perhaps it's because of some of the aforementioned reasons?