On Sunday, the Broncos methodically and thoroughly destroyed Baltimore, 34-17.
So much for the Ravens giving the Broncos a regular-season test. When do the playoffs start, again?
"Unfortunately, you can't fast-forward the season," said Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen. "We've got some fine-tuning to do. The nice thing is, the next three games, no matter what, they're all home games."
The Broncos are 11-3 with seemingly two gimme games remaining against Cleveland (5-9) and Kansas City (2-11) to be played at Sports Authority Field. At the very least, the Broncos have qualified to play a first-round playoff game at home.
"We have what it takes to beat anyone," said Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil. "Whenever that time comes, it will come. But we've got two games left. Home games, in front of our crowd. So no more travelling."
The Ravens, banged up on defense and pathetic on offense, lost their third in a row. With a 9-5 record, the Ravens no longer are a threat to the Broncos' quest for a No. 2 playoff seed but they did clinch a playoff berth Sunday with other teams' help.
The Ravens were supposed to be a challenge, but instead they have fallen into chaos. "It felt like it was Christmas and not for our side," said Ravens All-Pro safety Ed Reed. "We were in a giving mood."
First, the Ravens made the unusual move of firing their offensive coordinator last week despite a 9-4 record and only three games remaining. All the switch from Cam Cameron to Jim Caldwell did was bring the Ravens' offense a lost fumble on their third play of the game, followed by four consecutive three-and-outs. With the Ravens seemingly about to get back in the game late in the first half with a first-and-goal at the 4, quarterback Joe Flacco opted not to spike the ball with 30 seconds remaining, but to try to catch the Broncos' defense napping.
Chris Harris only pretended to sleep. When Flacco threw to the left sideline, Harris snapped to.
"Oh, man, my eyes probably got real big," Harris said.
The Broncos' cornerback picked off the pass, then raced 98 yards for a touchdown, barely outpacing Flacco, making it 17-0. Broncos 34, Ravens 17
Denver 3 14 14 3 34
Baltimore 0 0 3 14 17
Den • FG Prater 27, 7:13.
Den • Hester 1 run (Prater kick), 11:51.
Den • Harris 98 interception return (Prater kick), :15.
Bal • FG Tucker 45, 12:18.
Den • Decker 51 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 9:53.
Den • Moreno 6 run (Prater kick), 7:40.
Bal • Pitta 31 pass from Flacco (Tucker kick), 14:31.
Den • FG Prater 36, 4:32.
Bal • Pitta 61 pass from Flacco (Tucker kick), 4:08.
Attendance • 71,317.
First downs 21 12
Total Net Yards 350 278
Rushes-yards 45-163 19-56
Passing 187 222
Punt Returns 6-33 5-52
Kickoff Returns 2-21 6-144
Interceptions Ret. 1-98 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 17-28-0 20-40-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-17 3-32
Punts 8-43.0 7-50.4
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-1
Penalties-yards 7-51 6-61
Time of Possession 38:34 21:26
Rushing • Denver, Moreno 22-118, Hillman 14-29, Hester 7-20, Osweiler 2-(minus 4). Baltimore, Rice 12-38, Pierce 5-20, Flacco 2-(minus 2).
Passing • Denver, Manning 17-28-0-204. Baltimore, Flacco 20-40-1-254.
Receiving • Denver, Decker 8-133, D.Thomas 4-13, Dreessen 2-36, Moreno 2-8, Stokley 1-14. Baltimore, Pitta 7-125, J.Jones 3-51, Rice 3-3, Doss 2-28, D.Reed 2-22, Leach 2-11, T.Smith 1-14.
Missed Field Goals • Denver, Prater 45 (WL).