Denver Broncos | News

Three Keys Unlocked: Broncos 19, Ravens 13

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DENVER -- **A quick look back at how the three keys to Sunday's game turned out ...

1. PROTECT PEYTON MANNING.

This was going to be a challenge for a young offensive line against the seasoned Ravens, and the Broncos struggled in this area, allowing as many sacks in one game (four) as they did in the first four games of the 2014 season.

But keeping Manning upright doesn't just fall on the offensive line; it takes an effective running game to force the opponent to hesitate in its edge rushing. The Broncos struggled to establish the run during the first three quarters, and entered the fourth quarter with just 13 runs against 39 pass plays. Pressure from Kyle Arrington -- who hit Manning twice -- also led directly to the Jimmy Smith pick-six that put the Ravens in front 10-9 in the third quarter.

"At one point in the game, we got really out of whack as far as heavy run-to-pass [ratio]," Kubiak said. "We struggled to run the ball at all coming out of the locker room in the second half. We just tried to do everything we could to stick with it."

The Broncos did better in the fourth quarter when the ground game got going, and Manning wasn't touched. But they have work to do.

2. KEEP THE RAVENS OFF-BALANCE.

In the fourth quarter, the Broncos finally got the offense to work as intended. After a 9-yard pass from Manning to Demaryius Thomas to open their 17-play, 10:56 march in the fourth quarter, the Broncos ran on six consecutive plays for 29 yards until they passed again.

C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman split the work on the series, combining for 43 yards on nine carries. But a 4-yard loss by Hillman on a second-and-5 forced the Broncos into third-and-9, and when Anderson was tackled three yards short of the line to gain, the Broncos had to settle for a 33-yard Brandon McManus field goal.

That was the only drive where the Broncos kept the Ravens on their heels and off-balance, but thanks to a magnum opus by the defense, it was enough.

"I think that we knew it would be tough to run the ball against them, but we didn't want to give up on it," Kubiak said.

"It's just a struggle all day. Give them credit, "he added later. "They're a great defensive football team. They got after us. We struggled with some situations, but we just kept battling."

Denver's defense rarely let the Ravens get comfortable, as Wade Phillips threw myriad looks at the Ravens. He shuffled his defensive linemen around constantly, with Sylvester Williams working as a three-technique and Vance Walker lining up at nose tackle at times.

Phillips wasn't shy about blitzing, and kept up the pressure on the final series, even when DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller were relieved by Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett.

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3. SHAKE IT OFF.

This was all about the ability of the Broncos' inside linebackers to shake free of the Ravens' interior linemen getting up to the second level, and Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan generally succeeded at this, closing lanes and preventing Baltimore's Justin Forsett from making many substantial gains until Forsett finally busted to the edge for 22 yards on the final series.

"I felt like I had more of a spring [in my step], but that's just my mentality this year. I feel good," Trevathan said. "I'm getting there and it's showing. I'm feeling good. I'm bouncing with this defense. The vibe is just real out there."

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