Ravens show Steelers how to beat Broncos
Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton lies on the field after being sacked in the fourth quarter by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Chris Carr (partially obscured) and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards during Sunday's game in Baltimore.
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Kyle Orton might not be John Elway, but he's playing great football and doesn't make huge mistakes. That's what Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will have you believe when he does his weekly sit-down with the media today and looks ahead to the next opponent, the Denver Broncos Monday night at Invesco Field at Mile High. The stage isn't too big for rookie running back Knowshon Moreno. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall can take the rock to the house on any play. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's unit is rock-solid. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil's motor never stops and he has an AFC-best 10 sacks to prove it. Eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey might be the best football player on the planet. Return man Eddie Royal is capable of making it three consecutive opponents with a kickoff return for a touchdown. Punter Mitch Berger is a terrific weapon when it comes to field position ...
OK, not even Tomlin will go that far.
But you get the idea.
Part of Tomlin's job is to make every opponent seem like a Super Bowl contender. That is so unnecessary. His players are smart enough to know they can't overlook any team. On any given Monday night, right? As for the rest of us, we're too smart to buy into it when it's not justified. And this time, it's just not despite the Broncos' 6-1 record, their raucous crowd and the advantage of playing in mile-high altitude.
Did you see that 30-7 beating the Baltimore Ravens put on the Broncos Sunday?
Talk about thorough.
Mills Lane would have stopped it early in the fourth quarter if it were a fight.
"Who said we'd go 16-0?" Broncos linebacker Andra Davis asked afterward, trying to justify the whipping when no justification seemed reasonable.
Usually, the Steelers have a hatred for all things Baltimore, but the Ravens did them a favor by unveiling the perfect game plan to make the Broncos look like, well, the Browns. Spread the field offensively and go no-huddle to play a high-tempo game, which seems to be right up quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's alley. Play the safeties high on defense to take away Marshall's big plays and force the Broncos to methodically move up the field. Orton isn't good enough to pull that off against a strong defense. There's a reason the Chicago Bears couldn't wait to get rid of him, you know? He threw for just 90 yards against the Ravens before their defense softened in the final two minutes. Marshall's four catches went for just 24 yards. The Broncos' only scoring drive benefited from 44 penalty yards. Their 200 yards of offense were their fewest in six years.
"The key against them is to keep the ball in front of you," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Then, if they do catch it, have nine or 10 guys flying to make the tackle. That's our mentality, anyway."
That's pretty much the Steelers' mentality, as well. Stop running backs Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, who combined for 55 yards against the Ravens, and force Orton to beat them. He didn't throw an interception again Sunday and has just one pick this season. But he averaged just 4.22 yards per pass against the Ravens. Take away that final meaningless drive and that number drops to 3.21. That's so tiny you need a magnifying glass to see it. Roethlisberger's season average is 8.85, by comparison.
"We just didn't really do a whole lot," Orton said.
Steelers linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley can rattle this guy. The Ravens certainly did. Orton never seemed right after blitzing linebacker Jarret Johnson came in untouched and sacked him hard on the first play for an 8-yard loss.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn't have nearly the same trouble against what had been a pretty stout Broncos defense. He completed his final 14 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos, who, remarkably, hadn't allowed a third-down conversion in the second half of their previous four games, allowed Flacco to convert 6 of 8 second-half chances. They couldn't get off the field. Literally.
"Specifically, we spread them out," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We went a lot of no-huddle in the second half. So we kept some of [their] players on the field maybe more than they wanted. They weren't able to substitute as much as they normally do. I think the tempo was really fast."
Does that sound like Roethlisberger's game or what?
"We've got a lot of work ahead of us here, a lot of improving to do," Broncos rookie coach Josh McDaniels said after the Ravens' fiasco, well aware that the world champs are coming to town.
"I'm disappointed in myself, disappointed in the way our team played. I think we're a better football team than that."
So does Tomlin, who will be glad to tell you all about it a little later today.
Hey, that's his story and he's sticking to it.
First Published November 3, 2009 12:00 am