Ravens deal Broncos first defeat of season
BALTIMORE — The Denver Broncos went from unbeaten to overmatched during a 60-minute beatdown by the Baltimore Ravens.
Rookie Lardarius Webb returned the second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, and Baltimore ended a three-game losing streak with a surprisingly easy 30-7 victory Sunday.
It was Denver's first loss under rookie coach Josh McDaniels. The Broncos (6-1) came in with the NFL's top-ranked defense, a plus-7 turnover differential and one of the league's best kick returners in Eddie Royal. Denver had also outscored the opposition, 76-10, after halftime.
The Ravens, however, dominated every facet of the game.
"We didn't play our best ball, but they're a pretty good team and they beat us pretty good today on all sides of the ball," Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton said. "We didn't really do a whole lot."
Baltimore (4-3) limited Denver to 200 yards, scored off the game's lone turnover, won the special teams fight and outscored the Broncos, 24-7, in the second half.
Denver started the day as one of three unbeaten teams in the NFL and was trying to go 7-0 for the first time since 1998. Baltimore needed a win to avoid falling under .500 and dropping two games behind the Steelers and Cincinnati in the AFC North.
In a duel between an undefeated team and a desperate one, the Ravens prevailed.
"They just did a better job of executing. Desperation had nothing to do with it," Broncos safety Brian Dawkins said.
Baltimore held Royal in check, bottled up Orton and became the first team this season to rush for more than 100 yards against Denver. Given two weeks to think about a three-game skid in which they lost by a combined 11 points, the Ravens started fast and never relented.
"We know we're capable of doing this kind of thing," said Joe Flacco, who went 20 for 25 for 175 yards and a touchdown. "We had a chance in the other games. Today we finished. That's why we won."
Baltimore went up, 13-0, when Webb turned the second-half kickoff into his first NFL touchdown. After breaking free around his own 30, the speedy rookie cut right and outran his pursuers into the corner of the end zone.
"All 10 guys got their body on someone," Webb said. "I just saw a hole and ran."
The Broncos responded with an 86-yard march fueled by three Baltimore penalties totaling 44 yards. A 39-yard pass interference call on Domonique Foxworth and an offside by Ed Reed on a fourth-and-1 led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Knowshon Moreno.
The Ravens answered with a field goal for a 16-7 lead, then went up, 23-7, on a 20-yard pass from Flacco to Derrick Mason with 13:07 left.
Ray Rice capped the rout with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:59 to go. Rice ran for 84 yards, the most by one player against Denver this season.
And now, the Ravens have some momentum heading into next week's showdown against Cincinnati.
"Around the locker room it's going to be more upbeat," Foxworth said. "It's amazing how winning heals all wounds."
The Broncos, for the first time under McDaniels, will have to rebound from a defeat.
"Anytime you have a game like this, it forces you to look in a mirror," McDaniels said. "Hopefully we can find out just as much about one another ... through the adversity of a loss as you can through six wins."
The Broncos managed only 79 yards in being held scoreless in the first half for the first time this season.
The tone was set on first play from scrimmage, when Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson blitzed untouched from the left side and sacked Orton for an 8-yard loss.
"That's not the way you want to start the game, for sure," Orton said. "It's not just one play. We had a number of plays where we just didn't execute. They were just better than us."
Denver made only one first down in the first quarter, and Moreno's fumble on a screen pass led to Steve Hauschka's field goal for a 3-0 lead.
The Ravens added a field goal in the second quarter.