Denver Maintains Focus
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Try as they might, the Baltimore Ravens just couldn’t get under the skin or into the heads of the Denver Broncos, who were more concerned about talking up their opponents than trash-talking them.
Most of the Ravens were exceedingly complimentary of the Broncos this week, but some spent time excusing their 34-17 home loss to Denver last month with dismissals ranging from the soon-to-retire Ray Lewis and several others being out of the lineup to the Broncos’ receivers pushing off too much.
Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin said after Baltimore’s emotional wild-card win that the Ravens were glad to get another shot at Denver.
Asked how it will be any different than last time, he declared, “We’ll make it different.”
“I wanted Denver, because they beat us,” said Boldin, who was shut out in the first meeting, a game in which the Broncos breezed to a 31-3 lead and cruised to the finish.
The Broncos, not big on bravado all season, shrugged it all off.
“We beat them, so of course they want to play us again,” cornerback Chris Harris said. “We’re up for the challenge.”
Those were about the brashest statements that came out of the Broncos locker room all week.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” running back Knowshon Moreno said. “It’s not going to be easy.”
Fans aren’t buying it, and oddsmakers have installed the top-seeded Broncos (13-3) as more than a touchdown favorite. They haven’t lost in three months, are coming off a bye and playing at altitude against a team playing on a short week.
Although quarterback Joe Flacco has four road playoff wins on his resume, the Ravens were a mediocre 4-4 this season on the road, where he threw just seven of his 24 touchdown passes.
Then, there’s Peyton Manning. Although he’s 0-3 lifetime in cold weather in the playoffs – Saturday’s high will hover around 20 degrees with some snow expected – he’s beaten the Ravens (11-6) nine straight times, including twice in the playoffs.
He’s been stellar with that glove on his right hand the last two weeks in preparation for the wintry weather and as a concession to the altered feel of his grip following four neck surgeries. With the glove, his completion percentage has been almost 6 points better and his passer rating almost 20 points higher than without it.
The Broncos aren’t taking anything for granted, though. They pointed out all week that the last time they played, the Ravens were without Lewis, safety Bernard Pollard, guard Marshal Yanda, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and tight end Ed Dickson, all of whom will be available Saturday.
“So, this will be a completely different game, a completely different test,” Broncos coach John Fox said.
Packers put substance ahead of style on defense
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) – The Green Bay Packers could have filled an entire highlight reel with their interceptions last year.
Good thing, because the rest of their defense wasn’t worth watching.
A year after finishing with the NFL’s worst defense, the Packers have traded the excitement of those big turnovers for consistency. And the change could be the difference between another early exit from the playoffs and a deep run that could last all the way to the Super Bowl.
“I’d prefer our defense this year to last year’s,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.
The Packers (12-5) play at San Francisco (11-4-1) tonight at 8:00 p.m.