DENVER – Not so long ago, surrendering seven touchdowns in a month was unacceptable in Baltimore, let alone in a game — to one quarterback.
These Ravens, though, are far from those Ravens. Retired is Ray Lewis. Gone is Ed Reed.
With them — at least for the moment — is that swagger and hard-nosed demeanor on defense, but that wasn't nearly enough against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Manning tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes and the Broncos rolled to a 49-27 win over Super Bowl champion Baltimore on Thursday night in the season opener.
Those 49 points are the most a Ravens defense has ever allowed.
"A lot of things can happen when you play one of the best offenses," said Elvis Dumervil, who returned to Mile High after bolting for Baltimore in the offseason. "When you give up something like that, you are going to get beat."
Once Manning found his rhythm after waiting out a 33-minute lightning delay, he was virtually unstoppable, completing 27 of 42 for 462 yards with no interceptions for an off-the-charts QB rating of 141.1. He's the sixth QB in NFL history to throw seven TD passes in a game and the first since Joe Kapp did it for Minnesota against Baltimore on Sept. 28, 1969.
"It was too easy for them," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
That's something rarely said about a Ravens defense, which allowed 510 yards of total offense by Manning & Co. Maybe it's an adjustment thing, with Daryl Smith filling in for Lewis and Michael Huff taking over for Reed. Or maybe this is a portent of things to come.
Or maybe Manning just had one of those nights.
"We have to go back to the drawing board," Baltimore safety James Ihedigbo said. "It puts it all into perspective as to what type of team we want to be. At the end of the day, it counts for one loss. Everything that we want to do is still in front of us and that's our focus.
"When you are going against a quarterback like (Manning), you give him something and he is going to take it and run with it."
The Broncos waited all offseason for the rematch, then endured another 30 minutes more as a lightning storm in the area delayed the start.
When they took the field, it was clear how much had changed.
Eight months ago, Joe Flacco joined football immortality with a last-minute heave for the ages, a pass that ultimately catapulted the Ravens to a Super Bowl crown and ended the Broncos' season.
This one was such a blowout that Flacco didn't have a chance for any heroics. He threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns, along with two interceptions.
"We did some good things. There are some things we have to get better at," Flacco said. "When you play a good offense, anything can happen. We have to make sure we take this game and move forward."
Back in January, Jacoby Jones caught a 70-yard TD pass over Rahim Moore with 31 seconds left to tie it in regulation. This time, his night was cut short when he went back to field a punt and teammate Brynden Trawick ran into him. Jones left with a sprained right knee and didn't return.
Usually, the Super Bowl champs open at home. But there was a conflict in Baltimore with baseball's Orioles playing at home and so the game was switched to the Mile High City.
Greeting Broncos fans as they entered Mile High was a gigantic banner of Flacco alongside Manning. The presence of the poster created quite an uproar around town for the last several weeks.
Dumervil made his return to Denver as a member of the Ravens and was booed when his name was announced. The linebacker was all set to agree on a new deal with the Broncos in the offseason when a fax foul-up prevented that from happening and the team cut him to save money.
He did sack Manning, though, something he wasn't allowed to do during Denver's practices since QBs were off limits. It was one of three the Ravens had on the night. But Manning gouged the defense for seven TDs.
"Tough to beat someone when you give up that," Dumervil said. "Manning is one of the best."
NOTES: Ravens RB Ray Rice was held in check, gaining 36 yards on 12 carries. He scored a 1-yard TD in the second quarter. ... Asked how injuries to Jones and RT Michael Oher (ankle) affected the offense, Harbaugh said: "I'm not sure. I think obviously when you lose two starters, they always affect you in some way." ... S David Bruton blocked a punt by Sam Koch.
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