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Week 15 Game Recap: Denver Broncos 34, Baltimore Ravens 17

Denver Broncos

QB Peyton Manning, Pass: 17 - 28 - 204 - 1 TD / 0 INT

Peyton Manning had a solid if unspectacular day in the box score, but he played better than his stats indicate. His biggest blemish was a blatant overthrew on an easy long touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas, but he also suffered a couple drops here and there, as every quarterback does. Manning faced serious pressure in spurts on a couple drives, but had a fairly clean pocket most of the day, as the Ravens defense slogged through injuries and ineffectiveness that has plagued it throughout the season. Manning's lone touchdown was a beautiful play action call from about 50 yards deep to Eric Decker in which Decker simply stutter stepped his way past 1 on 1 coverage. It's worth noting the cornerback completely gave up on the play, or might have chased Decker down. Manning and Decker also had a near 2nd TD that was initially ruled as such, but was later called down at the half yard line. Jacob Hester ended up cashing that touchdown instead. The Broncos could have also extended more drives, but some of the receivers ended up running routes short of first downs on third down plays.

RB Knowshon Moreno, Rush: 22 - 118 - 1, Rec: 2 - 8 - 0 (3 targets)

Knowshon Moreno had himself a day, but much of it was thanks to a combination of great blocking and an atrocious Ravens run defense. Almost every run was simply up the middle following blockers, as he was rarely touched in the backfield. In fact, all of Moreno's long runs, including his 20 yarder, were simply results of big holes up the middle. Full credit to a grading offensive line for the performance of the Denver running game on the day. However, Moreno did show some decent patience and solid decision making, and also displayed athleticism on an amazing hurdle of a standing Ed Reed on the aforementioned 20 yarder. Moreno's 6 yard touchdown was a standard run where he walked into the endzone untouched. Moreno had minor contributions in the passing game, as Peyton Manning was generally afforded time to throw where he wanted to.

RB Ronnie Hillman, Rush: 14 - 29 - 0

Ronnie Hillman operated as a change of pace back on this day, and though the stats don't show it, operated with promising patience that you'd want from a rookie. 12 of 14 of Hillman's runs came in the garbage time in the 4th quarter, so the Ravens simply sold out against the run. It's worth noting that his final 5 runs went for a combined -5 yards, otherwise his day would have looked a lot nicer. Hillman also showed nice acceleration on a pitch in the first quarter, and could be in line for more meaningful carries in the future if Knowshon Moreno shows signs of slipping.

RB Jacob Hester, Rush: 7 - 20 - 1

Jacob Hester saw a handful of touches on the day, with one going for a touchdown from about a half yard out while lined up at fullback. Hester ran straight ahead as a power-type back, and beyond the touchdown, had a fairly uneventful day.

WR Eric Decker, Rec: 8 - 133 - 1 (11 targets)

Eric Decker had what was easily the best day of any Broncos skill players, showing savvy route running and repeatedly beating up on the Baltimore cornerbacks. Most of his receptions were comeback and out routes, and he capitalized on the opportunities he had given that he was left in 1 on 1 coverage for much of the day. Decker's touchdown came on a nice stutter step double move to beat the cornerback for a long 50 yard touchdown. Had the cornerback not outright given up on the play, it's possible Decker may not have scored. Decker also had a touchdown call that was later reversed and ruled down at the half yard line. He dove for the pylon on the play, but stepped out of bounds just before he could reach the inner part of the pylon. There wasn't much wrong for Decker today, as he accounted for over 65% of the Broncos receiving yardage.

WR Demaryius Thomas, Rec: 4 - 13 - 0 (9 targets)

Demaryius Thomas had a fairly quiet day that could have been better if not for a few miscues. Peyton Manning overthrew Thomas on a 35 yard deep bomb that would have been an easy touchdown. Thomas also dropped a couple of passes and ran a couple routes just short of first downs that would have extended drives. However, he also showed his great ability with a nifty one handed catch on a reception, and had another near TD taken away from him with a great pass breakup by Ravens CB Cary Williams. Most of Thomas's 4 receptions came on slip screen type plays, but the Ravens did well to sniff them out and limit his yardage, as his yards per catch was a meager 3.25.

TE Joel Dreessen, Rec: 2 - 36 - 0 (3 targets)

Joel Dreessen was the only Broncos tight end with a reception today. His highlight play came on a great catch and throw for 28 yards. Dreessen caught a ball with Ed Reed draped all over him in proper coverage. Kudos on the play to Peyton Manning as well for dropping a strike into a narrow window.

Baltimore Ravens

QB Joe Flacco, Pass: 20 - 40 - 254 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - -2 - 0

Joe Flacco had an extremely ugly day marred by inaccuracy and questionable decision making. The box score shows 254 yards and 2 touchdowns, but both touchdowns came in what most would consider garbage time, and when the game mattered Flacco was simply off. Flacco fumbled on what would be his 9th fumble of the year to set the tone for the day. He was nearly sacked in his own endzone after waiting far too long for routes to develop, and perhaps most egregious of all were his large number of blatant overthrows to receivers who would have been considered open by many. The Broncos defense did manage to pressure Flacco throughout the day, but many of these overthrows came when Flacco had time and a lane to throw from. Flacco's interception was a complete game changer. Standing on the Denver 5 yard line, Flacco threw a ball without proper zip to his left to Anquan Boldin that was easily undercut by Chris Harris and taken 95 yards the other way for a pick six. This was a throw Flacco had no business making, as the cornerback was in plain view and read the route the whole way. On the good side of the stat sheet, Flacco had two touchdown passes to Dennis Pitta. The first was on a 2nd and 25 in which Pitta dove for a ball, caught it at about the 2 yard line and literally rolled into the endzone untouched with a couple defenders around him. The second touchdown, a 61 yarder, was all Pitta. Flacco threw the ball to Pitta about 5 yards downfield to Pitta, who proceeded to break four tackles while dancing near the sidelines, somehow staying inbounds and waltzing into the endzone. It was one of the highlights of the week, and frankly, was all Pitta on the play. Joe Flacco will see good days, but today certainly was not one of them.

RB Ray Rice, Rush: 12 - 38 - 0, Rec: 3 - 3 - 0 (7 targets)

Ray Rice only had a handful of totes on the day for two big reasons. One, the Ravens couldn't get anything going on offense, not converting a first down until midway through the second quarter. Two, the game got out of hand early and forced the Ravens into catch up mode for much of the second half. On Rice's 12 runs, the Broncos defense completely stuffed up the Ravens offensive line and gave Rice almost zero running room. Rice was almost stymied on all 3 of his receptions, the long going for a mere 5 yards. Rice did show nice cuts on two runs out of the shotgun, but we know what he brings to the table in terms of skill at this point. This was simply a day in which one unit overpowered another. Bernard Pierce actually found running room on a couple of runs against a Broncos run defense that played lights out throughout the day, including a 15 yard jaunt down the left hand side. Pierce also broke a 4 yard gain in which he carried multiple tacklers about 3 yards, and turned a -6 yard gain into a half yard gain by causing defenders to miss in the backfield. Pierce showed decent skill given how little room there was to operate on the day.

WR Jacoby Jones, Rec: 3 - 51 - 0 (4 targets)

Jacoby Jones was the only Ravens wide receiver who topped 30 yards on the day, and that was because of a big 43 yard play towards the end of the first half. Flacco threw the ball roughly 40 yards in the air, and Jones turned around nicely and stuck his hands up in the air for the catch. Other than that, Jones had a couple minor catches that went for a 4yards each. Jones also briefly left the game with an injury, but came back soon after.

WR Tandon Doss, Rec: 2 - 28 - 0 (4 targets)

Tandon Doss had two nice catches on the day thanks to solid route running on slants. Both of his grabs came on inside intermediate slant routes, with one catch going for 15 yards and the other going for 13 yards. In hindsight, the slant route seemed to work whenever Flacco had time to complete it, and it's something Doss ran well today.

WR Torrey Smith, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (3 targets)

While all the Ravens wide receivers had fairly quiet days, this marked the 4th game in 5 weeks that Torrey Smith had less than 35 yards, and the 3rd time in 5 weeks that Smith was held to 1 reception. Champ Bailey covered Smith for much of the afternoon, which is a recipe for a small day most of the time. Smith nearly caught a very nice 25 yard jump ball, but landed just out of bounds. Other than that, Smith had a mere 3 targets on a very quiet day.

WR Anquan Boldin (6 targets)

Anquan Boldin was held catchless on the day, and the major play of note that he was involved in was Joe Flacco's 95 yard pick six. Boldin was targeted on an underneath route, but Chris Harris undercut it easily. The ball likely should have never been thrown Boldin's way in the first place.

TE Dennis Pitta, Rec: 7 - 125 - 2 (10 targets)

Dennis Pitta had a huge stat line today thanks to some great athletic ability. Pitta was targeted 10 times and hauled in a few nifty catches, including two touchdown grabs. Pitta's first touchdown catch was a long throw about 30 yards in the air that he caught at the 2 and then rolled into the endzone after a defender failed to touch him while he was on the ground. The catch was great, as was the awareness that no one had touched him. Pitta's second touchdown was one of the highlight plays of the week. Pitta caught the ball about 5 yards downfield, then proceeded to break 4 tackles while tiptoeing down the sideline and outracing defenders after breaking the aforementioned tackles. This was a display of surprising elusiveness from a tight end, as well as solid speed one wouldn't expect from the position. Besides those two touchdowns, most of Pitta's catches were shorter routes, as Joe Flacco was overthrowing many intermediate and deep routes to all his targets.

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