Different scenery but same plot: Top defense again stifles Broncos

Griese: Scoring on Ravens requires near-perfect play

October 01, 2001|By Ray McNulty | Ray McNulty,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DENVER -- The sentiment throughout the Denver Broncos' locker room after yesterday's 20-13 loss to the Ravens was unanimous: The Broncos want another shot at the reigning Super Bowl champions.

"They came into our place and played a great game defensively, but it's not like they were an unbeatable team," Broncos quarterback Brian Griese said.

"We had our opportunities on offense and just didn't execute the way we needed to. We needed to play close to a perfect game to score points on that defense, and we didn't do it."


Last season, the Broncos went into the playoffs with an offense that ranked among the NFL's best. But all they could muster against the Ravens was a field goal in a 21-3 loss in an AFC wild-card game in Baltimore.

This time, the Broncos vowed, the result would be different. This time, the Broncos had a healthy Griese running the show and the game would be played on their new home turf, Invesco Field at Mile High.

This time, the Broncos' offense produced two field goals.

Officially, the Broncos' offense scored one touchdown -- on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Griese to tight end Dwayne Carswell -- but it was set up by defensive tackle Chester McGlockton's interception on Baltimore's first play from scrimmage.

"We didn't put it in the end zone; our defense put it in the end zone," Griese said. "That touchdown had nothing to do with us. We scored six points."

And with the Broncos' offense struggling against Baltimore's vaunted defense, Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac brought his team back from a 13-6 third-quarter deficit with a pair of touchdown passes.

The Broncos entered the much-anticipated AFC showdown averaging 427 yards -- 282 passing, 145 rushing -- and 34.5 points per game. The Ravens held them to 228 total yards, only 61 on the ground. And Baltimore forced three turnovers, including Griese's first two interceptions of the season.

"We had some opportunities early, but we didn't take advantage of it," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "Against a good football team like that, you can't turn the football over and you've got to score when you get the ball inside the 50-yard line.

"You can't beat a good football team and have three turnovers."

The Broncos had no turnovers in their victories against the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals. But neither the Giants nor the Cardinals play defense as aggressively or as tenaciously as the Ravens.

The result was the Broncos' 10th loss in 50 home games since Shanahan took over as coach.

"They set an all-time record for fewest amount of points [allowed] last year, and they've got the same team back," Shanahan said. "Obviously, we didn't play very well today. Obviously, we couldn't get much going. And I don't think we have too bad an offensive team, so you have to take your hats off to them."

Griese completed only 17 of 33 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked five times and spent much of the afternoon scrambling away from the Ravens' pass rush, which had effectively shut down Denver's running game.

Mike Anderson was the Broncos' leading rusher, carrying 12 times for 34 yards.

"It's not just the guys up front, it's everybody on that defense," Broncos tackle Matt Lepsis said. "They all know where they're supposed to be and they all play 100 mph. That's a dangerous combination."

Said tight end Desmond Clark: "Brian didn't have time to read the defense. He was running for his life."

Broncos receiver Rod Smith said last week that the Ravens would let the Broncos know just how good an offense they had. What did he learn?

"We've got a lot of work to do," Smith said. "We were in control of the game and we blew it. Our offense blew it. We've got to make plays and we didn't. There's no way they should be able to stop us from doing what we do.

"We've got to have guys step up. ... Sometimes I saw it, and sometimes I didn't. You've to make things happen against that team because they're not going to make mistakes.

"They are the team that you measure yourself against right now, and they played good enough to beat us this time. Hopefully, we'll see them again."


"It leaves a bad taste in everybody's mouth when they come into your back yard and push you around like that," Lepsis said.

But is there reason to believe the outcome of another rematch would be different?

"I think we can move the ball on them," Griese said. "But we'll have to play close to perfect to beat them. We can't make the mistakes we made today."

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