ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Sunday's win over the Ravens marked one of the Broncos' most impressive victories of the season.
On the road in Baltimore against a playoff team, Denver jumped out to a 17-0 lead and led the Ravens 31-3 midway through the third quarter.
"I thought yesterday was a good test going to Baltimore," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "(It's an) intimidating place to play a good football team. To get through the scrambles in the first quarter and get that interception, to go into halftime and play solid offense in the second half, to have a good four-minute drive, I thought that we showed good flashes."
In addition to strong performances by both the offense and the defense, the Broncos also won the turnover battle 2-0, which marked the team's best performance of the season on that front.
"I think we're growing," Head Coach John Fox said. "Yesterday was the first game all season, I believe, we didn't turn the ball over. That's something that we have to get cleaned up. I think we went from minus-two to zero. So that's an area we've got two more weeks to get fixed."
But the solid overall showing in Baltimore doesn't mean the Broncos are a finished product. Denver allowed the Ravens to score twice in the fourth quarter on long touchdown receptions by Baltimore tight end Dennis Pitta. The late defensive lapses are among the team's priorities as it looks to round into form for the start of the playoffs.
"A lot of areas we need to improve on -- we did put it on the ground a couple times in the return game," Fox said. "We were a little better in the red area, still need to work on giving up a couple of explosive plays late in games on defense. I know that's something that needs to be addressed. So we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of improving to do."
Though room for improvement remains, Decker said the team is close to where it wants to be, and more importantly, is determined to get there.
"I think that we're getting closer and closer," Decker said. "There's stuff we do need to work on. We do need to get better. That's a good attribute of this team, is we're always focusing on what we can get better at, and pushing ourselves to get better."
MORENO SOLID AGAIN
For the second consecutive week, running back Knowshon Moreno ran for more than 100 yards.
With 391 yards rushing in four games since returning to the lineup after eight straight weeks as a gameday inactive, Moreno has continued to show that he is capable of carrying the load for the Denver running game. With 121.8 scrimmage yards per game since stepping into the starting lineup, Moreno ranks fourth in the NFL in that time, second among running backs behind Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. His success has been a testament to his positive outlook, one that helped Moreno treat practice like a game throughout an eight-game streak without live action.
"I've said it many times, my hat's off to him, because there was a time he could've gotten frustrated or discouraged or whatever word you want to use," Fox said. "But he stayed positive. He kept working. This game's about getting your opportunity and then taking advantage of it when you get it. I think he's done an excellent job."
SPECIALISTS SHOW VERSATILITY
As a team, one of the bright spots in Sunday's win was the Broncos' sound tackling.
Good technique and hustle by the defense bottled up Ravens running back Ray Rice, who gained just 38 yards on 12 carries. Without solid tackling, a defense can't hold an opposing offense to just three points in three quarters. But Denver's ability to bring down ballcarriers extended beyond the team's top tacklers in Sunday's victory.
Both kicker Matt Prater and punter Britton Colquitt also showed the ability to wrap up and take opposing players off their feet. Prater was credited with a pair of special-teams tackles, and Colquitt one. While the involvement of kicking specialists in the post-game tackles list usually isn't something coaches hope for, it doesn't make touchdown-preventing plays by kickers and punters any less impressive.
"Actually there were (three) fine tackles there -- one by our punter and a couple by our kicker," Fox said. "Ideally that's not something we're looking for. We do practice it, but we'd like to not use it as much as we did yesterday. Again, that's an area -- some of our coverage situations weren't as good as they've been. The team we play this week in Cleveland, they're one of the tops in both kickoffs, kickoff coverage as well as punt returns. With (Cleveland's Josh) Cribbs, he's an outstanding, Pro Bowl-type return man. Something that will be important for us this week."
Long snapper Aaron Brewer also got into the mix in kick coverage, recording a tackle of his own to give the Broncos' specialists a total of four tackles on the afternoon.