BALTIMORE — After a competitive first half, the Broncos failed to make the necessary plays after the break and fell to 2-1 with a 27-14 loss to the Ravens.
In a game with as many big plays as Sunday's, it's difficult to choose a first-half moment as the one that swung the result. But it's hard to argue any other moment was as meaningful as one that came with 4:45 to play in the first half. As Justin Tucker attempted a 43-yard field goal to give the Ravens a six-point lead, Justin Simmons broke through the line of scrimmage and blocked the kick. Chris Harris Jr. scooped the ball up off the grass and returned it 58 yards for a score that gave Denver the lead, but a block in the back penalty brought the touchdown back. The Broncos wouldn't score on the ensuing drive, as Case Keenum took a sack that pushed Denver out of field-range and then couldn't make up the necessary ground. The Broncos also lost Phillip Lindsay on the drive, as he was ejected for throwing a punch. Denver had several chances in the second half, but no play swung momentum as much as that touchdown that wasn't.
Simmons and Joe Jones both earn nods here as they each blocked kicks that gave the Broncos key opportunities. Jones blocked the Ravens' first punt of the game, which set up a 6-yard Royce Freeman touchdown. The aforementioned Simmons block took Baltimore points off the board — but it unfortunately didn't make the difference it appeared it would at first. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas also earn recognition. Sanders scored the 35-yard rushing touchdown, and Thomas rebounded to catch five passes for 63 yards. He would have had more if a 39-yard reception wasn't called back in the third quarter.
Thirteen for 120.
The Broncos made enough plays to win on Sunday against the Ravens. The problem? Not enough of them counted. Repeatedly, the Broncos made big plays that were erased by untimely penalties. Twice on the Ravens' first drive, the Broncos were called for penalties that pushed Baltimore 20 more yards down the field. In the second quarter, a block in the back penalty nullified the 58-yard Harris touchdown that came when he scooped up a blocked field goal. Lindsay was flagged on the ensuing drive when he threw a punch in a pile, which led to his ejection and a penalty that pushed the Broncos out of field goal range. A Derek Wolfe offsides penalty gave the Ravens a first down after Denver made a stop — and the Ravens would go on to score a touchdown on that drive. A holding penalty nullified a 39-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas that would've given the Broncos a first down at the Baltimore 11-yard line. And, with the Broncos in the red zone with a chance to cut the lead to six points, Denver was again called for a holding penalty that moved the team from the 5-yard line to the 15. Keenum threw an interception on the ensuing play.
As the Broncos' offense clicked early, the team took a 14-7 lead with 7:02 to play in the first quarter. Emmanuel Sanders took a reverse handoff and headed 35 yards to the end zone, aided by a big Andy Janovich block on Ravens safety Eric Weddle. The play was nearly identical to one the Bronco showed off in Week 3 of the preseason, when — again led by a Janovich block — Sanders ran 27 yards to the end zone. This time, the play counted for a lot more. Sanders, a ninth-year veteran, had never before scored a rushing touchdown. He became just the fourth Broncos receiver to do so, joining Javon Walker, Rod Smith and Anthony Miller.