Nine months ago, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens went into Sports Authority Field at Mile High and ended Peyton Manning’s brilliant comeback season. The Ravens then went on to win the Lombardi Trophy.
Thursday night has shown that both teams are a long way from that 2013 Playoff clash.
In the offseason, both teams had tweak their rosters. John Elway was determined to add depth to the secondary, and he also managed to grab Manning yet another weapon at WR. Ozzie Newsome spent the offseason once again working to show why he is one of the top GMs in the game. They lost Ray Lewis to retirement, along with Ed Reed and a host of others to free agency-cap casualties, really. Newsome responded by swooping in and grabbing Elvis Dumervil and others to help reload the offense. But he ended up trading away Anquan Boldin, his top reciever from the Super Bowl team a year ago, in a cost cutting move. At the time, the move made sense because they’d just shelled out big money to lock up Flacco and had other holes to fill. They needed the cap space.
If Ozzie knew then what he found out in training camp, he may have found a way to keep Boldin, as the Ravens ended up losing Flacco’s number 2 target, TE Dennis Pitta, to a hip injury which could keep him out all year.
When they kicked off the 2013 season on Thursday, there were still many of the same pieces on the field that were here in January, but there were also quite a number of new ones as well. Based on the outcome, two things are clear: Manning and the Broncos offense is going to be a force to be reckoned with, potentially on a historic level if they keep this pace up. And second, the Ravens may still be a playoff team (I think they will be), but they are still coming together.
Thursday night was much more about a Manning Tour de Force than anything else. With seven passing TDs, including two to new weapon Wes Welker, Manning was out to show that last season’s return from his neck surgeries was no fluke. The scary thing for the AFC West, and really the rest of the NFL? This was only game one, Peyton isn’t hittng his stride for the season yet, but he looks prepared to put up even better numbers-and lead the Broncos to even greater heights-than he did in his debut season in the Mile High City.
For the Ravens, the good news is it is a 16 game season. They were not going to win them all. They have a long “week” between games to work on getting key players like Jacoby Jones and Michael Oher back and healthy. In spite of the game’s outcome, it still would not be a shock to see these two teams go at it again in January, with a whole lot more at stake.