Broncos see changed Ravens in rematch

The SportsXchange

Only one of the Broncos' possible opponents in the entire AFC playoff field wasn't on their regular-season schedule, so unless the Colts defeated the Ravens on Sunday and then upset the Broncos six days later, any possible foe prior to Super Bowl XLVII was going to spur a rematch.

Not that the Broncos particularly cared one way or another when the Ravens closed out a 24-9 win over Indianapolis, thus sealing a rematch of a Dec. 16 game in Baltimore that the Broncos won 34-17 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.

So much has changed for the Ravens since then; linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Bernard Pollard, tight end Ed Dickson and guard Marshal Yanda have all returned to the Ravens' lineup after being forced out in Week 15 because of various injuries. Their recently promoted offensive coordinator, Jim Caldwell, has also settled in after replacing the fired Cam Cameron; the Broncos game was his first on the job.

"I don't think it really matters," said Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme. "They've got a lot of guys that are going to be back that they didn't have that game. That was Jim Caldwell's first game calling plays on offense. There's a lot of different things that are going to be happening this Saturday compared to the last time we played them. So you pretty much throw that out the window."

It was also a game that the Broncos didn't close out the way they wanted, allowing two fourth-quarter touchdown receptions to Baltimore tight end Dennis Pitta. That was the third of four consecutive games in which the Broncos allowed at least one fourth-quarter touchdown; in those games, opponents scored 39 fourth-quarter points -- 13 more than they amassed in the first three quarters of those games.

"I can't say we let up, but they got a couple of plays that they shouldn't have gotten," said Broncos safety Mike Adams. "We probably got lax and it shouldn't happen. That's what we work toward getting better at, just closing out games."

Nevertheless, Pitta's touchdowns were window dressing; they didn't make the Ravens feel any better about their performance, and only provided a slight dent to the Broncos' morale after what was their first-ever win over the Ravens in Baltimore.

The Ravens were embarrassed; it was their worst home loss in five years and their fifth worst home defeat all-time. Wanting to make amends, Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin declared, "I wanted Denver," after the Ravens' win Sunday.

"Of course," said Broncos cornerback Chris Harris. "We beat them, so of course they definitely want to play us again. We're up for the challenge."

But in the moments after the Dec. 16 game, the Broncos' general jubilation was tempered in the defensive side of the locker room. Some defenders were bitter, even angry, over conceding the two late touchdowns. They didn't merely want the win; they wanted the unassailable statement.

It's not the same as wanting revenge for a humbling home defeat, but linebacker Wesley Woodyard believes the late-game fade will provide the Broncos fuel, as well.

"We let them make some big plays on us and gave up some big plays, so we're looking to reavenge ourselves, too, just like they are," he said.
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