This was not the start that the transformed Ravens defense wanted.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos hung 49 points on the scoreboard Thursday night, the most points the Ravens defense has ever allowed in a single game in franchise history.
It was a historically bad defensive night for the Ravens, who played their first game in team history without leading linebacker Ray Lewis on the roster.
The unit had six new starters from the team that last played in Super Bowl XLVII. But it didn't blame the changes on who wasn't there. Instead, Baltimore gave kudos to the high-powered Broncos offense while casting an eye on improving.
"[Their] guys just made plays," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
"This is the NFL. Who do you all think we lined up against? Did this team go 13-3 last year? And they have the same team with another weapon. C'mon now, there's no panic."
Manning threw an NFL record seven touchdowns and 462 passing yards. It's the first time any quarterback threw that many touchdowns in a game since 1962.
"We've got some things we've got to fix and tighten up, obviously," Suggs said.
Suggs was asked whether communication issues between all the new pieces played a part in the defense's struggles.
"That's what you have training camp for," he said. "It wasn't no communication issues."
The Ravens simply broke down in coverage against Denver's talented barrage of pass catchers.
Tight end Julius Thomas was too strong for safety Michael Huff to bring down, and broke through arm tackles on the goal line. He shook the Ravens linebackers with a double move to get open. Thomas scored the Broncos' first two touchdowns on 24- and 23-yard grabs across the middle.
Denver free-agent acquisition Wes Welker gifted the Ravens a touchdown with a muffed punt, but gave them fits as a receiver. He caught nine passes for 67 yards, including 5- and 2-yard touchdowns.
The Ravens kept outside wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker quiet for the first half. Jimmy Smith showed superb coverage and fellow cornerback Lardarius Webb was getting his hands on the ball in his first regular-season game since Week 6 of last year.
But Thomas exploded in the second half. He finished with five grabs for 161 yards and two touchdowns, including a 78-yarder off a bubble screen that crushed the Ravens' hope of a comeback. Andre Caldwell caught a 28-yard touchdown over Smith and Thomas hauled in a 26-yarder behind Corey Graham.
"They just started fast in that second half. We gave them a bunch of things and they did a good job of capitalizing on our mistakes," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said.
Ngata applauded Manning's patience. The Ravens held him to short gains in the first half, but Manning bided his time and more receivers came open as Baltimore's defense spent more time on the field.
The Ravens controlled the clock in the first half, but partly because of the offense's second-half struggles, Baltimore's defense spent a lot of time on the field in the second half, and had to play at Manning's frantic pace.
"We did a good job in the first half and did what we were supposed to do," Ngata said. "He stayed patient and did what he's supposed to do and found the open receivers."
The Ravens' front seven did get some pressure on Manning. Suggs had one sack and free-agent acquisitions Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty also each got one. Baltimore's defensive front held the Broncos to an average of 2.8 yards per carry.
The secondary was where the breakdowns often occurred, and the Ravens' linebackers were also put to the test in coverage by Welker and Denver's quick running backs.
Huff had a tough night. He finished with two tackles, and saw his play time cut into by rookie first-round pick Matt Elam in the second half. Graham had difficulties keeping up underneath.
"It was one of those games where everything they did went right, and everything we did went wrong," Graham said. "It's a rough one, and for me personally, it's probably one of the worst games I've ever played in my life."
Still, Suggs warned fans not to be too concerned. The Ravens defense should get better as the season moves on, and it had a very difficult first test.
"I don't think anyone needs to jump to any conclusions after the first game," Suggs said. "I think they were favored to win this game, they were already favored to win the Super Bowl. It's a long season and we're going to play it out and they're going to play it out."