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The Breakdown: Eisenberg's Five Thoughts vs. Broncos


Five thoughts on the Ravens' 19-13 season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium:

Frustrating Because Big Win Was ThereFor the longest time, it seemed like a game out of the Ravens' past, when they won with defense, field position, special teams and one big play. They struggled on offense, fell behind early, turned things around with a huge defensive play and seemed to be in control, leading by four points, controlling the line of scrimmage. But they lost control when quarterback Joe Flacco threw an ugly pick-six near the end of the third quarter. My two cents, if that play is an incompletion, the Ravens win. But it wasn't, and the Broncos were able to hold on and deal the Ravens a loss that feels doubly frustrating because a big win seemingly was there for the taking. The Ravens kept Peyton Manning and the Denver offense from reaching the end zone, a development that should translate into success. But when a last-gasp Baltimore drive fell short, the Ravens offense had also failed to score a touchdown. That's obviously not good enough.

**Can't Help But Wonder How Much Longer Suggs Plays

The defeat was overshadowed by Head Coach John Harbaugh's stunning post-game announcement that defensive end Terrell Suggs had suffered a torn Achilles and is out for the season. It's a tremendously sad development for Suggs, of course. One of the all-time great Ravens, he's 32 years old now and you can't help but wonder how much longer he's going to be able to play. Knowing Suggs, he won't want to end his career with an injury. Ray Lewis felt the same way and came back from an injury just in time to lead the Ravens' Super Bowl run in 2012. Suggs won't be able to do that this year. We'll see how his rehab goes and how he feels. As for the 2015 defense, his loss signals the loss of its unquestioned vocal leader, a significant playmaker and emotional force. It's a setback. Teammates were somber as they commented on his injury after the game. The next man up, clearly, is Courtney Upshaw, who will step into more of a three-down role with the understanding that he needs to pressure quarterbacks. The depth chart is a tad thin after Upshaw and Elvis Dumervil. The Ravens need a pass rush.

Playmakers, Better Protection Needed
It was a forgettable game for the Ravens offense. "Not much fun to be a part of that," Flacco said. The running game never got going, the receivers failed to consistently gain separation, and the line really struggled to keep Denver's pass rush from harassing Flacco, who was under duress all day. Give some credit to Denver's agile, aggressive defense. "Those guys are good," guard Kelechi Osemele said. But the Ravens' woes were certainly also a major part of the equation. Flacco was NOT under pressure when he tossed his pick-six. He saw Steve Smith Sr. in single coverage near midfield, but threw it right to Aqib Talib. "Just one of those that didn't work out," Flacco said. The unit got it together and staged a last-gasp drive that almost pulled the game out, but it had five snaps in the red zone in the final minute and failed to make a play. That's not going to help quell the rumblings that the unit is short a playmaker or two. But if one thing really needs to improve, it's the protection. When Flacco, who never says anything critical about teammates, admits the Broncos did "a good job getting around the edge" and applying pressure, you know there's work to be done.

**Defense Played Well Enough To Win

The Ravens defense played well enough to win, period. Brandon Williams was immense in the middle, pushing piles all over the place. C.J. Mosley made a bunch of plays. Jimmy Smith was simply magnificent, giving the Ravens everything they hoped for and more with an interception and a ton of tackles. His first career pick-six, which gave the Ravens the lead in the third quarter, would have been the play of the game if not for how things developed later. Manning was under pressure all day from a series of blitzes that Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees dialed up. He did make some nice throws, but honestly, he looked 39, unable to throw the ball far downfield. Strangely, the Broncos kind of abandoned the run early, a surprise considering Head Coach Gary Kubiak's attachment to the run. (I do remember Kubiak also strangely abandoning the run in last year's Ravens season opener against the Bengals.) But the Denver offense did rise up and deal the Ravens a dose of their own medicine in the fourth quarter, holding the ball for 10 minutes and 56 seconds on a drive that produced a field goal and left the Ravens with only one, late shot to pull the game out.

Quick HitsRookie running back Buck Allen ran nicely when spelling Justin Forsett, a promising sign … In a mild surprise, Smith Sr. dropped back to return punts, taking one 22 yards in the third quarter … Denver's Brandon McManus became the second player in NFL history to kick two field goals of 50 or more yards in a game. His first-half boots of 57 and 56 yards would have been good from 67, maybe 70 … The Ravens' 38 yards of offense in the first two quarters tied for the fourth-lowest first-half yardage total in franchise history. Not the kind of history you want to make. "We didn't get much in the second half, either," Flacco said. That kind of says it all.

Check out the best photos from Mile High Stadium as the Ravens battle the Broncos!

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