Denver-Pittsburgh: Broncos Play in the East As Well As Steelers Do at Altitude

Ryan LiddellContributor INovember 4, 2009

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 1:  Jarrett Johnson #95 of the Baltimore Ravens sacks Kyle Orton #8 of the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Broncos 30-7. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

To be clear, this is no attempt to sugarcoat a pretty good thumping that Baltimore put on the Broncos last Sunday. The Denver offense looked terrible.

Aside from one series that was aided by three Baltimore penalties, the Broncos offense was completely dominated by the Ravens defense. Denver didn't get beyond its own 32-yard line until 4:52 remaining in the first half, and that drive stalled just past midfield.

Denver made it into Ravens territory only twice in the second half—once on the touchdown drive (aided by penalties) and again on the meaningless drive to end the game.

The Broncos defense, on the other hand, played fairly well for three quarters. One sustained drive and a field goal is what the Broncos D surrendered in the first half. The other Ravens field goal was the result of a fumble recovered at the Broncos 23-yard line—the Denver D actually backed Baltimore up a few yards for that field goal.

It's hard to blame the Denver D too much for wilting in the second half. Time of possession was decidedly in the Ravens favor.

It wasn't pretty, there's no denying that.

But let's keep some perspective. Playing Baltimore IN Baltimore is no easy task. Baltimore lost three games, yeah, but by a combined 11 points. And their losses came at New England, home versus Cincinnati, and at Minnesota. They are far better than their record may indicate. Baltimore is as good as any team in the NFL right now. 

Playing at Baltimore is even more difficult for teams traveling from the western side of the Continental Divide. It's a lot easier to deal with the time zone differences going west than east.

Consider this. So far this year, teams based on the western side of the Divide are 6-9 in road games on the eastern side of the Divide. Host teams that currently have a winning record are 9-2 against teams traveling from the west.

I know, I know. There are a couple of bad teams on the western side. This year Oakland and Seattle aren't exactly lighting it up. By the same token, half of the wins by western teams came at Kansas City (2) and at Jacksonville (1). There are bad teams on both sides of the Divide.

Perhaps more telling are games featuring two teams with winning records where the game is played on the eastern side of the Divide.

In those games, the away teams are 2-5 so far this year.

Getting thumped is never a good thing. But going east and playing a winning team on their home turf is very difficult.

This week the Broncos face another good team in the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the game is at Mile High Stadium. Denver is 7-2-1 in the regular season at home against Pittsburgh. The last time the Steelers won in Denver in the regular-season was 1990, and their other win came in 1978.

Apparently the Steelers like the altitude about as much as Denver likes flying east.