DENVER -- Wasn't Denver supposed to have the No. 2-ranked offense in the NFL? Didn't the Broncos talk all week about how they wanted to atone for last season's offensive failure in the playoffs against the Ravens? Wasn't Brian Griese supposed to be Denver's new version of John Elway?
The Ravens' defensive players heard about it, but they didn't believe it. As a matter of fact, it just irritated them. So as they ran onto Invesco Field yesterday, they had only one mission, and that was to destroy the Broncos' offense.
Here's the final tally of the fight: The Broncos had only 228 yards of total offense. Star running back Mike Anderson had only 34 yards rushing. Denver was just 5-for-16 on third-down situations, and Griese was intercepted twice.
Guess who won?
Ravens 20, Denver 13, before a stunned crowd of 75,082.
And guess who did the talking?
Sing, Ravens, sing.
"They do have a great offense, but that's why we play the game," Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams said. "You bring the hard hat, your lunch pail and go to work for 60 minutes. And you see what the outcome is.
"All of this talk about them averaging 38 points, how great the offense was. This [ticked] all of us off. We are the world champs, and we're basically the same team. Never, ever count out the champs."
Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said: "Explosive offenses? How many times have we heard that before? The lack of respect we get is overwhelming, and the last time I checked in, Mike Anderson had less than 50 yards rushing. Hey, man, give us our respect."
You have to give the Ravens much respect after yesterday, when they were coming off a complacent effort in a 21-10 loss to Cincinnati last Sunday. Not only were they playing Denver at home, where Broncos coach Mike Shanahan is 40-10, but the Ravens also have Tennessee at home Sunday, followed by Green Bay on the road a week later.
Another loss would have put the champs on the ropes, but thank goodness the defense showed up yesterday. It didn't just show up, it dominated.
Denver was averaging 34 points and 427 yards in its two previous contests, but it had no answers for the Ravens yesterday. The Broncos tried.
It was interesting watching Shanahan go against Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. The Broncos tried to use the same game plan as the Chicago Bears and the Bengals, the Ravens' first two opponents. They went with four and five receivers, trying to use short to intermediate passes to soften up the Ravens' defense.
They tried to spread out the Ravens, believing that the base defense couldn't get enough pressure on Griese. Also, when teams have gone to four- and five-receiver formations, the Ravens have taken out defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and put in an extra defensive back.
Denver had some success with the formations early in the game, but the Ravens' pass rush began to dominate. Defensive end Michael McCrary abused left offensive tackle Trey Teague. McCrary had two sacks and produced a lot of pressure. Denver had no one who could block strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware, who had 1.5 sacks and was just as much of a pest to Griese as McCrary.
The Ravens finished with five sacks.
But they dominated Denver's running game just as well. The Broncos went after Lewis with linemen blocking down on him. But they couldn't catch what they couldn't see. Lewis finished with 10 tackles.
And he had a lot of help from Adams, who disrupted much of Denver's offense with his penetration.
"They had tackles stepping down on me, they were always trying to get somebody in my face," Lewis said. "If that's what they want to do, then I'll let my defensive line destroy them. If you try that, Sam and Goose [Siragusa] will tear you apart."
Actually, the Broncos started off in an ideal situation. The perfect scenario is for the Ravens to get a lead, and then turn their defense loose.
But the Broncos took a 7-0 lead when Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac threw an interception on the first offensive play of the game, and Griese followed on the next play with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dwayne Carswell with only 20 seconds elapsed.
The Ravens also didn't get any help from their kickoff team, which allowed Denver great field position throughout the game.
"We take a lot of pride in stopping the run," Siragusa said. "Once that happens, teams go to the air. We got the best pass rushers in the league on this team, so we open the cage and let them out. We hammer away at teams. We don't come out and use a jackhammer to crack the rock; we take a sledgehammer and use one swing at a time. We eventually crack the rock."
By midway in the third quarter, the Ravens had the game under control. Pressure forced a Griese interception by cornerback Duane Starks at the Denver 24, which the Ravens eventually turned into a 20-yard touchdown pass from Grbac to receiver Qadry Ismail. Denver then went three-and-out on its next two offensive series.
The Ravens shut down the Broncos on fourth-and-one at the Ravens' 19 with 5:10 left in the game, and Corey Harris intercepted a Griese pass at the Ravens' 27 to put the game away with 1:38 remaining.
"We're very good against the run," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "There's no two ways about it. And that's as good a running team as there is in the NFL.
"We've got to feel real good. Last year, when they came to our place, yeah, it was blustery and, yeah, they didn't have Brian Griese. But this time, they did have Brian Griese and we're here in Denver, and we were able to play the run effectively. That speaks well of us."
Said Adams: "Last week, we had six turnovers; we didn't overcome adversity. Today, we controlled it. People are still going to be talking about Denver, and St. Louis, too, because they blew out Miami. What happened to that great defense in Miami? They're a good football team, but don't you ever count out a champion. Never."