For the past seven months we’re talked a lot about the 2013 version of the Baltimore Ravens and nothing really mattered until the rain and lightning cleared and the team hit the field in Denver last night.
Everyone had questions. Who would replace Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin in the offense? How would the secondary hold up with new (and some) former backup players? Who would provide the pass rush? Could Joe Flacco get protection and deliver the ball as a marked man?
Some of the answers came in a dismal third quarter that quickly unraveled and slowly droned on until midnight, when the Ravens managed to turn a 17-14 halftime lead into a 35-17 hole that they couldn’t recover from vs. the Broncos.
John Harbaugh and his staff will be looking for answers for the next 10 days in preparation for a visit from the Cleveland Browns.
Some evaluations and more questions are now glaring:
Who will catch the ball effectively for Joe Flacco in 2013? Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley caught a few passes but it’s hard to envision any massive productivity from them on the offense. Torrey Smith and Ray Rice will be utilized plenty but the some of the elder statemen are role players now playing a larger role than Ozzie Newsome would’ve liked, especially this early in the season.
The tight end position appears ready to haunt the Ravens without Pitta. Ed Dickson dropped four passes. Who can Flacco trust? Can Marlon Brown really be a surprise difference maker in the offense? He did catch a garbage time touchdown after most of you went to bed.
What happens to the special teams game with Jacoby Jones out? He injured his knee. For a speed guy, that’s death. It will hamper the offense – and it was always a question how effective he’d be in that second wide receiver role anyway – but the loss in the return game is monumental for as long as he’s gone.
Will there be a pass rush? Terrell Suggs, Chris Canty and Elvis Dumervil chased Manning a bit in Denver but how will they fare vs. the field in the coming weeks?
What’s with all of the stupid penalties? Albert McClellan hitting guys out of bounds? Jimmy Smith hitting a guy late? Gino Gradkowski getting a flag away from the play for rough housing?
How will John Harbaugh use his red flag? He used the first one to dispute a five-yard gain successfully and then swallowed it on an obvious drop by Wes Welker that changed the game in the third quarter. After the game, he said he didn’t know there was any dispute on that play and said that NBC should show replays quicker.
Joe Flacco threw a couple of interceptions that are still making me scratch my head. If not for the stupidity of Danny Trevathan, the Broncos would have had another Pick Six on a ball he admitted he shouldn’t have thrown. Can the Ravens offense and Flacco clean this up?
Peyton Manning threw seven touchdowns vs. the Ravens defense. Do you blame the pass rush? Do you blame the secondary? Do you just tip your cap to the one of the greatest of all time? And what happened to the Corey Graham of 2012? He suddenly assumed the Champ Bailey role in Denver last night.
Are you looking for bright spots? Haloti Ngata looked healthy and strong in run defense. Terrell Suggs looks to be back at 100 percent. Chris Canty looked like he’ll be a nice player this year. Flacco, for the most part, wasn’t running for his life behind an offensive line that was mostly good enough to win.
But other than that? Not much to “rave” about in Denver.
And finally…how much do the Ravens miss Ray Lewis and Ed Reed right now?
Plenty, it appears…