Before the Broncos' epic meltdown last week, there were two interviews that, in retrospect, foreshadowed the chess match between Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell--a chess match that, at least early in the game, Caldwell pressed his unforseen advantage.
The first was an interview with Joe Flacco on the Dan Patrick show, in which Flacco asserted that the key to a Ravens victory would be establishing the run. While that's not exactly a news flash--we all knew the Ravens wanted to run the ball--it confirmed again in the minds of fans and likely the Broncos coaches the perception that the Ravens were going to give the Broncos a healthy dose of Ray Rice and rookie sensation Bernard Pierce.
And why wouldn't they? The dirtly little secret that emerged from watching film of the first matchup between the teams was that the Ravens, after stumbling on their first three drives, experienced a brief window in which they were indeed running the ball well against Denver. In a series of three consecutive plays in the second quarter, the Ravens ripped off runs of four, fourteen, and fifteen yards. The drive stalled on a penalty, or it's likely the Ravens would have scored. After that, the running game was generally abandoned by the Ravens because the Broncos got up in the game by two scores.
Twice yesterday, John Fox decided that thirty-something seconds and multiple timeouts wasn't enough to move downfield for a score.
The first came with 36 seconds left in the first half at 21-21 from Denver's 20-yard line, with all three timeouts in hand. He reprised that decision at 35-35 and 31 seconds remaining in regulation, and two timeouts from the 20.
In the first instance, Denver handed off to Jacob Hester. Then, at the end of regulation, Peyton Manning - the king of NFL comeback QBs - was instructed to take a knee, and you know what happened from there.
Earlier in the year, Peyton Manning was mic'd up and remarked that it was bad to throw across the body.
He should have heeded his own advice.
Today he did it again for the second time--a time too many. And in the freezing, uncompromising cold of Denver (the wind chill was well below zero) Manning's arm--and the ball--went completely dead.
So did the Broncos' playoff chances.
One and done. All that work, shattered. Shattered like the dreams of Broncomaniacs everywhere. All those pretty little stats, gone. Gone like your breath into the chilly night. All that talk of going all the way, numb.
Numb like it's 1996 all over again.
It's the playoffs in Denver--Limericks, at altitude:
In the cold there's a game on this day
where the Broncos keep the Ravens at bay.
It won't take but a drive
for the Broncos to thrive
and flat crush the slow birds on the way.
Sorry to get to this a little later than I would like, but as always, take your own shot.
It's official--the Ravens are coming to Denver for a rematch.
After dispatching the Colts 24-9, the Ravens now bring their slightly-less injured team to altitude next Saturday on only six days of rest.
Since the game was something of a bore, here's what you need to know, summarized by Barry Wilner of the Associated Press:
[Anquan] Boldin set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown in the Ravens' 24-9 victory over Indianapolis in an AFC wild-card game.
Happy Friday, friends. I have some thoughts about the hiring of Andy Reid by the Kansas City Chiefs. The more I think about it, the more deeply ambivalent I become about the move. It affects us directly as Broncos fans, though, so let’s give it a think.
First off, the talent pool in Kansas City is atrocious, and it’s poorly fitted to the kinds of schematic approaches that Reid has historically favored.
In terms of the offensive skill positions, the only players that Kansas City can even consider to be real keepers are Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki, and Moeaki is overrated. Dexter McCluster is a useful guy as a matchup problem, and he’ll be in his last year of his rookie deal. Jonathan Baldwin looks like a giant bust, not that I am surprised.
The Chiefs have no QB and no speed at WR, and Reid likes to go deep with speed guys as much as any coach in the NFL. There are a few guys with some promise on the offensive line, but as a group, today, they’re not good. If Juan Castillo becomes the OL coach, I see a couple of them (Rodney Hudson, Donald Stephenson) not being great scheme fits, because Castillo has tended to favor larger players, and asked them to do a lot more drive blocking than zone blocking.
John Elway joined the usually gruff Sandy Clough yesterday morning on 104.3 The Fan, Denver's local sports talk radio station. He opened up quite a bit on his thinking over the last two years on the job. I was struck by one particular answer regarding Clough's glowing praise for Peyton Manning's intelligence:
There were a lot of good things that Peyton hadn't seen before that Mike McCoy and Gase were doing...Peyton saw something he hadn't seen in 14 years...so he got some new ideas from McCoy and Gase. And to me it made that package that much better and I think that's why we had the year we had offensively.
This is a slightly different narrative than the one we're used to--you know, the one that paints the Broncos as an exact replica of the Peyton Manning Machine that existed in Indianapolis. Perhaps this was true at the beginning of the year, when the Broncos utlized the fullback more often, but my guess here is that Elway doing what all good bosses do, which is to spread the credit around so that everyone feels ownership over the result. Elway could be helping McCoy out as well, during a time when teams across the league want to know that McCoy has the chops to be a head coach. Of course, the final explanation could be the most likely: McCoy knows his stuff, and in his time in Denver (and beyond), he picked up some additional offensive strategies from guys like boy genius Josh McDaniels (gasp!).
We never pass up an opportunity to take shots at the Raiders and their fans. So it gave us great pleasure today to read this GQ piece from Lauren Bans, in which she spends some time in Oakland with two Raiders fans known as Metal Cindy and Dre of the Dead:
In all of Raider nation, there are about fifty or so "superfans," and Metal Cindy and Dre of the Dead are two of them. Along with other "characters"—including Gorilla Rilla, a dude who shows up every game day in a full ape suit, plus a jersey and sunglasses over the ape suit, and who, according to Metal Cindy, got married in that getup—Cindy and Dre never miss a Sunday. They're like walking and waving Disney World mascots for the drunk-at-10-A.M. set
Dan Fouts finally said something I agree with.
The Broncos' ass kicking has become a broken record to the AFC.
Let the music play--three more times. Whoever comes to Denver won't be getting away.
Not this time; not with this defense; not as the number-one seed.
Did we mention we've got Peyton Manning, too?
A lot of things happen when you get on a winning streak. One of those things is that you forget your responsibilities--namely, a game-day limerick.
So here goes (in pure-form anapests):
It's the last of the games of the year
for the AFC West to revere
the appeal of the pass
and a hoof up their ass:
it is Manning and Denver to fear.
Thanks to my boy Alaskan for reminding me of my responsibilities. Feel free to give it your own shot (anapestic or not) below. Just remember, crude and lewd is quite shrewd, dude.