The O'Reilly Report

The Denver Broncos' defense came up big again in a 13-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night. Read how Broncos Update contributor Dan O'Reilly grades the team's performance.

This was every bit as hard-fought a defensive game as I was expecting it to be as the Denver Broncos beat the Baltimore Ravens, 13-3. The Broncos certainly made a strong case tonight for having one of the best defenses in the league and the whole nation could see it. They fought hard and finally made everything pay off in the latter part of the game. It also seemed that the crowd was making a big difference. Could the old Mile High crowd magic finally be returning?

Offense: C
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Quarterback Jake Plummer had a horrible first half and it can't be attributed solely to the Ravens defense. He was rainbowing the ball when he wasn't throwing behind or ahead of the receiver and was lucky to come out with only a single interception. Six yards passing says it all. In the fourth quarter, he did finally put his game in order and had some great completions to wide receiver Javon Walker (who, I think, is asserting himself as the #1 receiver) and Rod Smith.

Kudos to running back Tatum Bell. Aside from the fumble to start the game, he showed again that he can carry the ball effectively throughout an entire game. It's good to see him making the most of the opportunity coach Mike Shanahan has given him.

The offensive line did a pretty good job against a VERY fast Ravens defense. To open the running lanes they did speaks well of their effort, and Plummer usually had enough time to make the throws. It was interesting to see tackle George Foster running interference for Plummer on that planned run in the 2nd half. I don't think I would want to meet him head-on, full-speed.

Defense: A+
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An absolutely stellar performance. A total of one touchdown in four games and one OT. This defense is the Real Deal.

The lack of a pass rush (that's going to come back one of these days and bite the Broncos BIG TIME) was more than compensated for by a secondary that was absolutely blanketing the Ravens' receivers. Three INT's came at critical times and really seemed like they got into Ravens' quarterback Steve McNair's head in the second half.

The linebacking corps is playing lights-out. It's not out of line to make comparisons with Gradishar, Jackson and Swenson of the Orange Crush. As a unit, they are far and away the best in the league right now.

As for the defensive line, the more I see of tackle Gerard Warren, the more I like him. He's the leader on this line and it can only get better when end Courtney Brown gets back. No more sneers about the "Browncos", please. These guys are Predominantly Orange through and through.

Special Teams: B-
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Definitely better than the last few games. Punt returner Darrent Williams has figured out how to run north-south again and some untimely penalties negated some nice runbacks. Punter Paul Ernster has earned his keep and it's going to be a tough choice between him and Todd Sauerbrun, who's coming off suspension. My money's on Ernster.

Coaching: A
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Shanahan and Raven's coach Brian Bilick are two masters of the game. But the Denver offensive and defensive plans were just plain better tonight. The fairly radical change of direction that defensive coordinator Larry Coyer made in the offseason has shown pretty spectacular results.



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