8:30 PM ET, September 5, 2013
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Minus some familiar faces, the Super Bowl champion Ravens kick off the 2013 season Thursday night against the host Broncos, who hope to achieve the goal they fell short of a year ago.
Riding an 11-game winning streak and ahead by seven late in the fourth quarter, Denver appeared headed to the AFC championship game until safety Rahim Moore blew coverage and Baltimore's Joe Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds left, forcing overtime and stunning the Broncos. The Ravens went on to a 38-35 double-OT victory that propelled them to a 28-13 win at New England the next week, and they went on to beat San Francisco 34-31 to claim their first Super Bowl title since 2000.
"I've got a pretty good feeling that the Broncos fans are going to make us remember (and) think about everything that they want to," coach John Harbaugh told the Ravens' official website.
"We know the environment we're going into. It will be the same environment, or even tougher, than the one that we faced in January. And we're excited about that."
For the Broncos, it's a chance to resolve the past while providing a potential springboard for a promising season.
"It's not about me. It's about the team," Moore said. "We all suffered. But the good thing about it is it's a whole new year. Nobody remembers what you did last year."
Breaking a decade-long tradition of the Super Bowl champs opening the next season at home, Baltimore is playing on the road because the Orioles will be hosting the Chicago White Sox next door to M&T Stadium on Thursday. The teams share parking lots and a solution for both to play at home could not be reached.
In a marketing move to promote and celebrate the contest, the NFL installed a banner of Flacco along with one of Denver QB Peyton Manning outside Sports Authority Field. That, along with several lamp-post flags of Flacco throughout downtown Denver, didn't sit well with Broncos fans after he threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns -- along with the long TD to Jones -- in the playoff win.
The situation would have been avoided had the NFL and Major League Baseball been able to resolve the scheduling conflict.
"I can't imagine that people in our city would be too happy if somebody from another team was hanging on our stadium," Flacco said. "(But) I didn't have anything to do with it."
Looking to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champs since New England in 2004, Baltimore will be without some key contributors from last year, including two longtime pillars of the team's vaunted defense.
Future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis retired after 17 seasons and safety Ed Reed signed with Houston. Gone as well are leading tacklers Bernard Pollard and Dannell Ellerbe and fellow defensive starters Paul Kruger and Cary Williams.
The Pro Bowl linebacker agreed to a restructured contract with Denver, but the paperwork wasn't filed with the league office in time and the team was forced to release him. Dumervil, who combined with Von Miller for 29 1/2 of Denver's league-best 52 sacks last season, signed with Baltimore in March.
"I feel amazing," said Dumervil, who has recorded 63 1/2 sacks in six seasons. "As of right now, I'm a Raven, and I feel great about that."
Rice's 1,143 rushing yards were his fewest since his 2008 rookie season, but he led the team with 10 total touchdowns and tied for second with 61 receptions. Rice's 7,505 yards from scrimmage since the start of the 2009 season are the most in the NFL.
He rushed for 131 yards and a TD on 30 carries in the playoff victory over Denver.
Flacco will be looking to live up to the six-year, $120.6 million contract he signed after throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the playoffs. Including postseason, he's thrown for 956 yards with six TDs and one pick while going 3-1 against the Broncos.
He'll face a Denver team that ranked second in the NFL in total defense at 290.8 yards per game and fourth in scoring defense at 18.1 points. However, star linebacker Von Miller is suspended for the first six games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, while cornerback Champ Bailey's is out due to a sprained left foot. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will start in Bailey's place.
Harbaugh still isn't taking the unit lightly.
"The Broncos are still the Broncos and they're going to put 11 excellent players on the field and they're going to put pass rushers out there who can rush," he said.
Denver's ultimate fortunes hinge on the right arm of the 37-year-old Manning.
After missing the 2011 season to recover from neck surgery, Manning threw 37 TDs and recorded a 105.8 passer rating in his first year in Denver.
He passed for 290 yards and three TDs against Baltimore in the playoffs, but was intercepted twice and sacked three times.
Receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker combined to catch 23 touchdowns from Manning. Also in the mix is veteran Wes Welker, whose 672 receptions since the start of 2007 are the most in the NFL during that span.
Welker signed with the Broncos in the offseason after six years in New England.
"I think as a team, this is our year," Moore said. "I think we're going to do some big things. It's not going to be easy. Not at all. We have to remain the hunters.
"But we do have a chip on our shoulders, too."
More from ESPN.com
Thomas longs for reunion with pardoned mother
Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is still waiting to see his mother out from behind bars for the first time since her arrest on drug trafficking charges when he was 11.
Peyton ready to throw on the run in new offense
Peyton Manning is ready to throw on the run more this year in the Broncos' new offense under head coach Gary Kubiak, saying Friday that it suits him just fine.
Grantland: Rating the best cornerbacks in the NFL
Big names like Sherman and Revis usually dominate this discussion, but a former undrafted free agent out of Kansas deserves recognition. Where does Chris Harris Jr. rank among the league's elite?
Recent Blog Posts
- Marc Trestman insists Ravens' emphasis is running the ball
- Jimmy Smith wants to be known as an elite cornerback
- Steve Smith doesn't think his snaps will get reduced
|Avg Points Allowed||49.0||27.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||BAL|
|Rush Yds Allowed||BAL|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Baltimore leads 6-4|
|Jan 12, 2013||BAL 38, @DEN 35|
|Dec 16, 2012||BAL 17, DEN 34|
|Oct 10, 2010||BAL 31, DEN 17|
|Nov 1, 2009||BAL 30, DEN 7|
|Oct 9, 2006||BAL 3, @DEN 13|
|Dec 11, 2005||BAL 10, @DEN 12|
|Oct 26, 2003||BAL 26, DEN 6|
|Sep 30, 2002||BAL 34, DEN 23|
|Sep 30, 2001||BAL 20, @DEN 13|
Joe Flacco attempted a league-high 107 passes last season more than 20 such yards downfield, including playoffs, and did not throw an interception. That's the most attempts without a pick in the last five seasons. Flacco was 6 of 10 with 4 TD on those throws against the Broncos last season.[+]
When it comes to facing the Broncos, Ravens QB Joe Flacco has displayed air supremacy on passes of at least 15 air yards... In 4 career games vs Denver (including playoffs), Flacco has completed 52% of such passes, compared to just 39% vs the rest of the NFL... His yards per attempt on these passes is 6 yards higher vs the Broncs, while his TD-to-INT ratio is also dramatically better.[+]
Passes of at Least 15 Air Yards - Joe Flacco NFL Career (Incl. Playoffs)
Peyton Manning dropped back to pass 22 times in the first half of the Divisional Playoffs vs Baltimore and was not sacked or put under duress. In the second half, Manning had 24 dropbacks and was pressured 10 times (41.7 percent). The pressure led to two turnovers, including the interception in overtime that set up the Ravens game-winning field goal.
Both of Peyton Manning's touchdowns have been thrown at least 15 yards downfield. He had 1 multi-touchdown game on such throws last season, Week 6 against the Chargers on Monday Night Football.
This was the 6th-largest season-opening win ever by the Broncos.[+]
Largest Wins In Season Openers - Broncos History
Joe Flacco completed 2-of-8 passes more than 20 yards downfield Thursday, compared with 4-of-7 and 3 touchdowns when these teams last met. Four of Flacco's 6 incompletions on such throws Thursday were overthrown, and no quarterback has more overthrows on such deep passes than Flacco since the start of last season.[+]
Joe Flacco Passing More Than 20 Yards Downfield
Joe Flacco started the game strong, completing 11 of his first 15 passes, with only one incompletion due to an off-target pass. Once he threw his first interception, things fell apart for the Super Bowl MVP. He completed less than 50% of his passes the rest of the way, with 10 off-target passes, all of which were overthrown.
Though the Ravens first touchdown, Joe Flacco has not been under duress on his 8 dropbacks. He is 2-of-2 passing for 31 yards and a touchdown against extra pass rushers.
Vonta Leach: 1st Rec TD since Week 12 in 2009 (Leach was a member of the Texans that season).
Peyton Manning's 24-yard touchdown pass was thrown 21 yards downfield. He has the second-highest completion percentage and tied for the second-most touchdowns on passes more than 20 yards downfield last season.
The Ravens started the season without 2 of their top 5 receivers, with Anquan Boldin leaving Baltimore and Dennis Pitta being injured. Jacoby Jones, who finished last season with 406 Rec yds, suffered a right knee sprain tonight vs Broncos, leaving the Ravens with an even more depleted receiving corp.[+]
A Raven Reduction - Most Rec Yds Last Season
Peyton Manning threw 4 touchdowns when the Ravens sent at least 5 pass rushers Thursday, all in the second half. The Ravens sent extra pass rushers 12 times in the 2nd half (2 times in the 1st half), not finding the same success they had against Manning last postseason. **The Ravens defense allowed 259 yards after the catch Thursday (120 YAC from Demaryius Thomas), more than any defense had allowed in a game during the previous 2 seasons. The Broncos offense had a combined 136 yards after the catch in two meetings against the Ravens last season.[+]
Peyton Manning Passing vs 5+ Rushers, Last 2 Games
From Elias: Only 2 players have had 7 TD passes, 0 INT in a game-- Y.A Tittle in 1962 for Giants against Redskins and Peyton Manning in 2013 for Broncos against Ravens
Peyton Manning threw 4 touchdowns on throws at least 15 yards downfield, becoming the 3rd quarterback since 2008 to throw 4 such touchdowns in a single game (Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers). Manning's downfield touch has been better since returning from his neck injury, completing 51.1% of his passes at least 15 yards downfield, compared with 41.9% in the 3 seasons prior to the injury.
From Elias: The 22-point loss is the worst in a season opener by a defending Super Bowl champ.[+]
Worst Losses In Season Openers - Defending Super Bowl Champions
Peyton Manning is the only player in NFL history to have three games with 6 passing touchdowns.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information