Gut Reaction: Ravens knock Broncos out of 2012 playoffs

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.

The Positives

1. I think that Trindon Holliday guy might work out as a return man.  I thought John Elway made a good decision in signing the guy, but even I didn't imagine what he did today.  On a day in which the Ravens saw a lot of calls and luck fall their way, Holliday restored the balance of the universe.  In that way, he's like He-Man.

2. We've noted the frequency with which Brandon Stokley defies conventional wisdom--old, white receivers aren't supposed to be pulling so many fast-twitch fibers.  But the old wisdom does apply when it comes to old vets catching the ball.  Stokley catches everything that's thrown his way.  

3. Wesley Woodyard left it all out on the field today--every play.

4. There have been those who have questioned whether Knowshon Moreno was a great running back.  What's never been in question is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.  But lining Knowshon out at the Z was a pretty clever way to take advantage of the Ravens' linebackers.

5.  Ronnie Hillman grew up today--with two hands.

6. The crowd was as loud as Krakatoa in the first quarter and the fourth.  They could use a little work in the middle.

7. Ray Lewis did not play well, despite what you'll hear in the next week.  He was isolated againt the Broncos' tight ends and paid the price.  The Broncos should have done it more often.

8. Speaking of the Broncos' tight ends, Joel Dreessen's catch in the fourth quarter was of iron-man quality.

9. For what it's worth, I thought Robert Ayers, Mitch Unrein, and Derek Wolfe came up huge today--particularly Wolfe.

10. Mike Adams--textbook coverage.  Remember when the Broncos signed him?  It wasn't just because he was a smart safety, it was because he was a safety who could cover.

The Negatives

1. Rahim Moore is not the most interesting man in the world--he's the most foolish.  He regressed in his tackling today.  He may also have made the worst play of the year.  How in holy hell can you let someone behind you when that's your only job?  So he misjudged the ball, fine, that's a physical mistake.  Anyone can accept this.  Mental errors--like letting a receiver several yards behind you with a minute to go in the game--are unforgivable.  The Broncos had this game; it should have been theirs.  Rahim Moore will need more than some MMA training in the offseason to overcome the pain he feels right now.

2. If I have thirty seconds remaining and two timeouts, I'm trying to score--especially if I have Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas.  John Fox must have thought he was still playing with Jake Delhomme I guess.  We've been maintaining that Foxball would cost the Broncos a game at some point in the future--perhaps in the playoffs--and today, it certainly contributed to the loss.  His calls on the previous drive--up the gut, up the gut, and up the gut, were also unispiring (although it's hard to pin the blame on him if Manning audibled on field, which we don't know at this point). In overtime, he decided to go for broke and keep running up the middle again and again.  To be clear: John Fox (assuming he was making these decisions, not McCoy and Manning) didn't lose the game, but he didn't help matters.  Also, I suddenly miss Willis McGahee.

3. The pass interference call on Tony Carter in the first quarter was, without question, criminal; further, it led to a Ravens touchdown.  While there's not a direct correlation to the Ravens' seven points, you can't discount the fact that the Broncos were getting off the field if it weren't for the stupidity of a referee.  As a side note, Ted Bartlett, Doug Lee, and I are going to start a drinking game each time Elvis Dumervil gets held.  By the third quarter, everyone is slurring their words.  By the way, the head referee for this game, Bill Vinovich, just started back as a referee in October after six years off.  How he drew this game is a mystery.  As I wrote this, they called another junk pass interference call--this time on Champ Bailey.

4. Speaking of Champ Bailey, he was beaten often.  The games in 2004 against Jerry Porter and Chad Johnson come to mind.  We have to call 'em like we see them, of course.  Bailey is an All Pro--just not today.  It just goes to show you how hard the position of cornerback is in the NFL.  And because of it, Jack Del Rio was forced to protect Bailey in the second half with more zone coverages.  It completely changed the Broncos' defensive gameplan.

5. Earlier in the week, we talked about random stuff affecting the outcome of games.  Tipped passes come to mind?  And why wasn't there a pass interference call on the play?  Eric Decker was mugged.  Today, at least in the first quarter, the NFL suddenly became the NBA.

6. It goes without saying that even with the idiotic calls from the referees, the Broncos had way too many penalties on the day. Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller want to get to the quarterback, and that's fine (we're all for it), but you've got to be smart.

7. Matt Prater, I can't freaking believe it.  I've never seen a worse kick from you.  We'll chalk it up to slipping I guess, but that's a 10-point turnaround, bro.

7. Orlando Franklin probably had his roughest game in pass protection in at least ten weeks--and just when I was about to make fun of Paul Kruger.  Oh well, there's always next year.

8. At midfield and with ten minutes remaining in the third quarter, how Jacob Hester is going to run for five yards on third down is beyond me.  Perhaps Manning saw something he liked.  Whatever it was, the results were less than spectacular. Worse was the reaction from Ray Lewis as though the Ravens had stopped something spectacular.

9. Justin Bannan before the game: "They'd be wise to boot Joe out of the pocket."  Sounds like Bannan had a  bead on the Ravens' game plan.

10. Remember early in the last game the Broncos got a timely fumble from Joe Flacco?  It happened again today, but it resulted in no points.  Randomness happens, and sometimes you hit the river.  Other times, you don't.  Peyton Manning lost one himself.  See what I mean?

11. How Chris Kuper can get a holding call on a quick dive play is way, way beyond me.  But it's not beyond this crew of referees--or Joey Crawford.  Still, watching Kuper get beat in pass pro made me pine for Manny Ramirez.

12. Peyton Manning had several big gains available to him by simply dumping the ball off to Ronnie Hillman.  He simply missed them.  He finally realized what was happening in the fourth quarter, but he could have used these throws much earlier in the game.

The Who The Heck Knows

1. Peyton Manning was supposed to be a bad-weather quarterback, meaning that when the temperature goes below 40 degrees, he struggles. Whether that's true remains to be seen (the sample size--four games--is way too small and the guy played all of his home games in a dome), but the Glove don't lie.  Today's performance was in that grey area.

2. Also, who the hell definded "cold" as below 40 degrees?  Why can't we use 32?  Or 50?  Creating a stat out of a subjectively chosen cold temperature is about as useful as putting a restraining order on Bill Williamson's use of the passive voice.

3. What happened to Knowshon Moreno near the end of the half?   It seemed as though he would have been a better option in the two-minute drill. Dave Logan and Eddie McCaffrey both speculated during the game Moreno wasn't at 100%. As I just wrote this, it was confirmed--Knowshon Moreno, knee injury.

4. It was even more hilarious to suggest that Brian McKinnie was the answer at left tackle because he had played well against an aging Dwight Freeney last week.  Facing Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil wasn't nearly as easy.  Mckinnie held Dumervil so many times today, he might as well have had Dumervil on a leash.

5. Trevor Pryce's take on why Ray Lewis was so popular in the last decade in Baltimore: "The Baltimore Ravens are the only game in town.  In Baltimore all there is is Cal Ripken and Ray Lewis."  True enough, although Ripken probably doesn't have the same intimate knowledge of the human anatomy.

6. It was hilarious to hear Ravens fans act as though they had fixed all of their problems on the offensive line with the return of Marshal Yanda at guard.  I'm not laughing now.

7. In the end, Peyton Manning took the Broncos no farther in the playoffs than Tim Tebow.  And I can assure you, those fans of Tim Tebow are cackling in glee right now.

8. Ozzie Newsome said something to Dave Logan worth repeating in reference to the draft and measurables: "Sometimes you just have to put the tape on."

9. I guess it matters to some that since 2005, the #1 seed only has a 53.6 winning percentage in the divisional round.  And now, Bill Simmons looks smart.

10. Where do the Broncos go now?  After the 1996 loss to Jacksonville, Shannon Sharpe said the organization was set back for years.  While it sure feels like that's the case this time, remember: the Broncos play the Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers twice a year.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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