Well, that sucked.
Broncos 49, Ravens 27.
Not what we expected. Pretty sure it's not what the Broncos anticipated either.
Season-opening losses hurt for a lot of reasons. You start preparing for them as soon as you get your schedule in April. There's more hype to the game because all teams have months to focus on that first one. Then, you get blasted on national television like we did last night, and it feels worse.
Not only that, not playing until a week from Sunday against the Browns, gives all the second-guessers ammunition and time to throw at our heads.
We'll take it, and we deserve it. We lost the game. The slings, arrows and Monday-morning quarterbacking come with the territory. The offensive line will be questioned because we didn't run the ball well. And, if we ran it better, Peyton Manning would have had fewer opportunities. Our receivers can't catch. The secondary will be criticized for allowing all those touchdown passes by Manning. (If you went to bed early, the future Hall of Famer threw seven of them.)
We'll hear it all. That's what happens when you lose your opener like we did.
Was I dreaming, or did the Ravens have a 17-14 lead at the half?
Those were the good old days.
Injuries to Jacoby Jones and Michael Oher hurt us, but those things happen in games and in the season. We know how to overcome injuries. And, yes, it would have been great to challenge the Wes Welker catch in the third quarter. But, Manning is as good as any quarterback ever at running plays quickly. It sure looked like Welker gave him a sign to run the next play as fast as possible. That was smart. Our coaches in the booth didn't see the replay that NBC kept showing later on.
I appreciated what John Harbaugh said to the team after the game. He told the players and coaches that he liked the way we battled throughout the game. (And we did. That's the mark of Ravens teams.) But, he also reminded the players what they discussed before this tough night in Denver: "What did we say before the game? We said we had to make plays, and the team that made the most would win. We didn't make enough of them. They made a lot of them, and we gave them too much.
"We'll take a look at what we did, good and bad. We'll do that later today, and then we are going to turn all of our focus on the Browns," the head coach said.
Yes, we gave them too much. We have to not turn the ball over. We have to make more catches, especially on third down and at the goal line. We have to run the ball better. We have to cover more efficiently. "We gave them too many easy plays," Harbs told the media after the contest.
Will we be better? Yeah, I know we will. And most of you do, too.
After John spoke to the team, which gathered tightly around him early this morning, he called on Terrell Suggs to break the huddle. With some emotion in his voice, "Sizzle" said: "All this means is that we won't go 16-0. We know we can play better. Let's go to work. Ravens on three: one, two, three, RAVENS!"
Speaking to the media a little while later, the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year tried to give some perspective to this difficult loss. He reminded reporters that Denver beat us badly in Baltimore (34-17) last December before we went on our Super Bowl run, which of course included the double-overtime victory in the playoffs at Denver. "It's important how we react as a team to a loss like this, and I believe that we'll bounce back. We have some things that have to be tightened up. We'll do that. And, we have to do that."
The Plane Ride Home
Wounds, both the physical ones and the psychological kind, were already being salved on our plane ride home this morning. Coach Harbaugh worked the cabin, spending time with his coordinators and Joe Flacco. Suggs, to his credit, was already working on "how we react." He talked with Haloti Ngata, and they spoke with some of the young defenders who sat near them.
It was quiet. We were humbled. The resolve will show later today when the players meet with their coaches and "walk through" the mistakes made last night.
The rebounding has started. The recovery has begun. Cleveland is the target. It can't come fast enough. Our food won't taste as good today and this weekend. We won't be able to enjoy the rest of the NFL opening weekend as much.
Losing hurts. Losing the season opener hurts more. Losing on national television adds some more distaste. Losing when you have 10 days before your next game adds longevity to the discomfort.
Like I said, it sucks.
We'll be better. I'm confident of that. Our coaching staff is excellent. We have a lot of very good players. We won't panic. We'll do what we do: go to work.
Go Ravens! Talk with you next week,