Welcome to Quarter Calls, DHF’s quarter-by-quarter breakdown of each Denver Broncos game. Instead of a live game thread, Quarter Calls is a quick-hit summary of the big story of each quarter. It can be a general mood or theme, play, penalty, injury, whatever.
If you prefer real time analysis and commentary, follow Denver Horse Force on Twitter. As always, I’ll be tweeting throughout the game.
Denver Broncos inactives: QB Caleb Hanie, WR Andre Caldwell, CB Tracy Porter, FB Chris Gronkowski, WR Julius Thomas, G C.J. Davis, DT Sealver Siliga
Baltimore Ravens inactives: WR David Reed, S Omar Brown, CB Chris Johnson, OLB Adrian Hamilton, G/T Ramon Harewood, WR Deonte Thompson, DT Bryan Hall
(3:17 p.m.) Well, that quarter had everything, notably a rowdy crowd at Sports Authority Field at Mile High that went from rowdy to irate in a matter of minutes.
Denver’s highlight was obviously Trindon Holliday’s 90-yard punt return for a touchdown, the longest play in NFL postseason history.
But it seems Holliday’s historical run was overshadowed by a few unfortunate plays, plays that infuriated the home crowd. First, the Ravens were beneficiaries of a pass interference on Tony Carter on third down, a call that extended Baltimore’s drive enough for Torrey Smith to torch Champ Bailey and tie the game. Just seconds later, after some contact involving Eric Decker, Peyton Manning’s pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
Tied game at 14. Buckle up, folks, we have three more quarters to go.
(4:10 p.m.) What has been the biggest difference so far between this game and the Broncos/Ravens first meeting four weeks ago?
Pass rush, or in this case, lack thereof.
And it’s that lacking pass rush that’s enabled Torrey Smith to have a huge first half.
Smith has two catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns, burning Bailey each time. Bailey was assigned to Smith in Week 15, but was far more effective. Why? Because Flacco was getting pressured early and often and forced throws. Bailey will win that type of one-on-one matchup, but won’t have the same success against a speedy Smith in a set play executed to perfection.
What are the Broncos options? Switch Chris Harris to Smith and give Bailey Anquan Boldin? Maybe the best solution is lighting a fire with your front seven. Flacco will turn over the football, either through throwing interceptions or fumbles.
Your move, Jack Del Rio.
(5:13 p.m.) Thank goodness for Trindon Holliday. He’s been the only real spark for Denver. His 104-yard kickoff return gave the Broncos a lead, a lead Denver held until Ray Rice’s 1-yard touchdown run in the quarter’s waning seconds.
The offense hasn’t looked its flashy self. (Insert cold weather excuse here.) The defense recover a fumble but otherwise haven’t looked stellar. (Insert cold weather excuse here.) And the officiating continues to be the big story. This just about says it all…
Look, I’m not one of those blame the refs types, but the officiating crew is too heavily involved in the game. We need less Bill Vinovich…
And while I’m at it, Dan Dierdorf, too.
(6:04 p.m.) Rahim Moore, you picked a heckuva time to make a huge mistake – the biggest mistake of your young career.
That’s about all I have to say. This game should be over, and it’s not. I’m stunned, shocked, mad, and nervous.
(6.49 p.m.) Folks, what we just witnessed was a pathetically terrible way to end a season. There’s so much blame to go around.
Other than Holliday’s two touchdowns, there were no other highlights for the Broncos, and that was the difference maker. The Broncos have been so well balanced this season – in all three phases of the game – so when only one phase is playing well, victory is that much more difficult to come by.
Conservative play calls? Sure. Momentum-changing officiating? Yes. Underwhelming performance by the AFC’s No. 1 seed? Absolutely.
The end result is a bitter taste we’re stuck with until next season.
Final: Baltimore 38, Denver 35
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