By Samuel Njoku
It’s a good thing Baltimore actually made that trip to Denver. After hearing all week that they had no chance of winning on Saturday, the Ravens defeated the Broncos in thrilling fashion in 2OT. There were plenty of players who stood out in this one. There is plenty of praise to go around.
Dean Pees and Jim Caldwell brought their A-game to this one. The Ravens knew it would take a complete body of work to take down the Broncos. Jim Caldwell called one of the best games I’ve ever seen as an offensive coordinator. The Broncos did an awesome job of stopping the running game. But Caldwell would not give Denver the satisfaction of becoming one-dimensional. He continued to run the ball for little 2 and 3 yard gains. It eventually gave Flacco manageable 3rd downs to work with.
Dean Pees really did an awesome job preparing for this game. The defense played a Tampa-2 defense for the majority of the game. Giving Manning dink and dunk passes to work with. He would rely on the front 7 to pressure Manning and force turnovers. But what will go unnoticed will be the second half adjustments that were made by Pees. The pressure got to Manning a lot more in the second half. The running game became non-existent. It was a great game-plan by both coordinators.
Joe Flacco seems to elevate his game in the postseason. He played one of the best games in his entire career. He would throw for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns including a huge play to Jacoby Jones in the final seconds of the game to force overtime. The Broncos vaunted defense rarely got into Flacco’s face in this game. Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher earned their paycheck by holding Denver’s pass rushers in check. The receivers for Baltimore schooled the cornerbacks of Denver consistently. Torrey Smith made Champ Bailey look like a rookie. Jacoby Jones made a crucial drop only to catch a 70 yard touchdown pass a few plays later.
Ray Rice didn’t get much of anything going in this game. Denver’s gameplan was clear. Get the ball out of the hands of Ray Rice. But Baltimore kept at the running attack. He finished with 131 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown.
The Ravens defense won’t get a lot of credit for this win. But they held Manning in check for most of the game. Of course Manning made his plays, but he was contained by a defense that seemed to get the better of Manning. Corey Graham had 2 crucial interceptions including one in overtime. Terrell Suggs became a game changer as he got to Manning for two sacks.
The front 4 kept the Broncos running game in check after allowing almost 200 yards the last time these two teams met. The run defense forced the ball in the hands of Peyton Manning. And while that might not always be a good thing, the Ravens took advantage of it on Saturday.
Special Teams: D
The Ravens special teams unit gave up two touchdowns on kick and punt returns. Had the special teams unit held the returner in check, this game probably wouldn’t have been as close as it was. Special Teams have been the best unit by far this season. But they almost cost the Ravens a chance at the AFC Championship. The only thing that keeps them from getting an F is the game winning kick by Justin Tucker in 2OT. The kid has ice in his veins.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.