As the Bengals and Steelers enjoyed their weekend off, we’re assuming they took in a bit of the Broncos-Ravens game.
And we’re guessing that, if they did, some of them likely peed a little.
The AFC North is no longer a two-horse race between 5-2 Cincy and 5-2 Pittsburgh. The Ravens, who had plunged from 3-0 to 3-3, have confirmed that each of their three losses could have been wins, via a trouncing of the previously unbeaten Broncos.
The offense, for years the weak link in this franchise, scored 30 or more points for the fifth time in seven games. And for only the second time this season, the Ravens defense — wobbling a bit after a decade of dominance — allowed fewer than 10 points.
Jared Gaither returned to action after a neck injury, reclaiming his position at left tackle and bouncing rookie Michael Oher to the side other than the blind one. Most importantly, they combined to keep linebacker Elvis Dumervil from adding to his 10 sacks in six games.
After the game, Oher was far more charitable in his assessment of Dumervil than the first-round pick had been two weeks earlier regarding Jared Allen of the Vikings.
“He’s one of the best in the league. I can
guarantee that,” Oher said of Dumervil, per the Carroll County Times. “He has every tool he needs, and he is a
great pass rusher.”
Then again, Allen’s three sacks from Sunday vaulted him past Dumervil. And if sacks are the measure of the greatness of a pass rusher, Allen is currently the better man, by one-half a bag.
Meanwhile, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels tried to turn the 23-point loss into chicken salad.
“Anytime you have a game like this, it
forces you to look in the mirror and really tell yourself where you’re
at, individually and as a team,” McDaniels said. “You can find out just as much about one another and your team and your
staff through the adversity of a loss as you can through six [consecutive] wins.”
The Broncos weren’t going to win 16 games. Their only convincing victories had come against the Browns and the Raiders. Surely, a desperate Ravens team that had fallen to third place in its division wasn’t going to fall to 3-4.
So now the question becomes whether the Broncos will respond to their first loss by getting back on track with a win over the Steelers next Monday night, or whether they’ll mimic the Giants and begin a slide from which Denver will struggle to emerge.
Looming in the weeds are the Chargers, who have won two straight and will come to Denver in 20 days for a rematch of their Monday nighter from last month. Though it’s too early to predict a repeat of last year’s Colorado collapse, folks in Denver likely feel a little more nervous about the current standing of their local football team than they did 24 hours ago.