The 2012 NFL season will be remembered for many a story line across the league. The Denver Broncos were one of the headlines with the return of Peyton Manning and gaining the number one seed while reeling off 11 games in a row since a week five loss to the New England Patriots. Now two unlikely figures that walk the Broncos sideline were key contributors in a double overtime loss against a motivated and hungry Baltimore Ravens squad.
CB Champ Bailey was burned twice in the first half with deep passes from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith, and the pair almost connected on a third. Bailey looked every bit the aging veteran who could not get his bearings straight and find his man all day. This is clearly what you would not expect from an all-pro defensive back who has been one of the best cover corners in the league the past decade.
Add to Bailey’s inconsistency, a pass rush that was nonexistent, and a blown coverage by Rahim Moore that allowed Ravens WR Jacoby Jones to score with 31 seconds on the clock in regulation, and you have a recipe for a loss. Plus the fact that Manning threw two interceptions, one in the final overtime that gave the Ravens field position on the Broncos side of the field, and fumbled once, it was evident that the Broncos were not at their best. And they still nearly won the game.
I could have listed 20 or 30 players or coaches on the sideline before I came up with Bailey’s name as a goat in this divisional round game. But an even bigger surprise was the coaching decision by Head Coach John Fox after Jones scored to tie the game. When you have 31 seconds left, two timeouts, Manning under center, and two wideouts like Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, I feel you have to give your team the chance to win the game before going into overtime.
Aggressiveness is what the Ravens clearly came into Sports Authority Field at Mile High with today. They refused to allow Manning to get into a rhythm, and even with that knowledge, Fox should have put the ball in Manning’s hands. To take a knee was simply giving the Ravens the upper hand knowing that they got into the coaches heads. Instead of looking Ray Lewis into retirement, Fox allowed Lewis to look Bailey into contemplating retirement.
I must tip my hat to the Ravens and their pure desire to move on, especially going on the road, to face the elements, the crowd and the Broncos head on, and keep their head up high while refusing to quit. This was a great year for the Broncos, and the season will undoubtedly be deciphered by numerous sources over the next couple weeks.
But there is one thing all Broncos players, coaches and fans need to take away from this game. If the killer instinct is not embedded into your very fabric, you will never be able to get over this hump of one and done in the playoffs. And that BroncosCountry, can only be incorporated by the head coach throughout his system. Fox, as well as the defense, lacked that instinct tonight. That is the instinct that has made the Ravens defense so good all of these years.
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