Jimmy Smith joked going into Sunday's matchup with the Broncos that he didn't remember Baltimore's last trip to Denver, where quarterback Peyton Manning set an NFL-tying record with seven touchdown passes.
"I forgot," Smith said with a smile. "I'm a corner."
The way the secondary played against Manning made the matchup two years ago feel like a distant memory for everyone.
Baltimore's defense stymied Manning and the Broncos for all four quarters. He never got into a rhythm and Denver's most successful* *drive came when they pounded the ball on the ground late in the game.
Manning finished the game with just 175 passing yards and no touchdowns. The Broncos didn't score an offensive touchdown for the first time since 2006.
"I think we came into this game with a lot of confidence, but going out there and performing well against Peyton Manning, that keeps it there," Smith said. "I think as a unit we went out and performed pretty well."
Smith was the clear headliner of the defense.
In his first game since suffering a season-ending foot injury last October, Smith looked like the kind of shutdown corner the Ravens envisioned when they gave him a reported $40 million contract extension this offseason. He played tight coverage throughout the afternoon and finished the game with eight tackles.
He also delivered Baltimore's biggest play, coming up with a pick-six on Denver's first drive of the second half. Smith jumped an out route on that play, tipped the pass to himself and then hauled in the interception as he ran the other way for a 24-yard touchdown.
"The credit goes all to Jimmy," said cornerback Kyle Arrington, who hit Manning as he threw the interception. "He made a heck of a play."
The stellar performance from Smith showed that he's fully* *recovered from last year's injury and ready to again assert himself as one of the team's top defenders.
"It was a long offseason for me obviously, but I'm just happy to be back," Smith said. "The team is happy."
Smith is the cornerstone of a secondary that went into the offseason in need of drastic improvement. The group was hit hard with injuries last year and was the undoing of the defense in a playoff loss to New England where the Patriots overcame a pair of 14-point leads.
Getting healthy was part of the solution – cornerback Lardarius Webb played at full strength after a back injury lingered much of last year – and the front office also brought in additions to give the group new life.
Arrington is a veteran corner with big-game experience, and signing safety Kendrick Lewis also gave the Ravens a rangy safety they desperately needed in the back end. Both had strong debuts and were a big part of the secondary's success.
"It's not like it was a surprise," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I feel like we all thought they were going to play really well back there. The defense played really well."
The secondary and the overall defense passed its first test of the season, but the Ravens still came up short in the 19-13 loss. The defensive success is somewhat overshadowed by* *the final outcome, and the group will look to build off its performance next week in Oakland.
"You win as a team and you lose as a team," Harbaugh said. "We all know we can play better."
Check out the best photos from Mile High Stadium as the Ravens battle the Broncos!