Broncos brace for road test at Ravens
The Denver Broncos have squeezed out a pair of narrow victories but hit the road for the first time this season when they visit the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Denver (2-0) needed to rally for the second straight week, scoring the final 13 points and defeating the Oakland Raiders 20-19 on a last-second field goal by Brandon McManus.
Given that the Broncos have outscored their first two opponents by a combined four points, complacency should not be an issue. A bigger concern is reversing an ugly history of East Coast road games from 2017.
Denver went 0-4 in visits to Buffalo, Philadelphia, Miami and Washington last season, getting outscored by an average of 20 points. The team typically departed the Mile High City on Friday a year ago for East Coast games, but the Broncos will not fly to Baltimore until Saturday.
"It's all about mindset. We're not going to worry about how far we're traveling, what time the game starts -- we don't care," Denver coach Vance Joseph said. "It's going to probably rain on Sunday. We don't care. I think pushing it back and just going on Saturday is all about our mindset and not worrying about going east, who we're playing or where we're playing."
Travel plans aside, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. offered another way to change the team's fortunes away from home as they prepare to face quarterback Joe Flacco and a rejuvenated Baltimore passing attack.
"When you play on the road, you have to pack your defense," said Harris. "We've got to outplay their defense. That's how it is on the road. Defense, you've got to ball on the road. You always plan on the offense to struggle a little bit on the road, so we have to try and give them a little help."
Denver's defense blanked the Raiders in the second half last week but Oakland quarterback Derek Carr became the first player in NFL history with a completion rate of better than 90 percent in a game when attempting 30 or more passes. The Broncos also allowed six plays of 20 or more yards.
"Baltimore is a tough place to play," said Broncos nose tackle Domata Peko Sr., who spent 11 seasons in Cincinnati. "I've played there 11 years in a row in the AFC North and it's a tough division. ... And you definitely have to get pressure on Flacco because he can sit back there and he can throw the deep ball like the best of them."
Flacco threw three first-half scoring passes in a 47-3 drubbing of Buffalo in Week 1, connecting with each of his new receivers, John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead IV.
In last week's 34-23 loss at Cincinnati, Flacco rallied Baltimore from a pair of 21-point deficits in a belated comeback attempt, throwing for 356 yards with two scoring passes and two interceptions.
"It was a tough game, and we have to play better," Flacco said. "We did a lot of good things after that start, and I think it shows a lot about our team the fact that we were able to get back into that game.
"It shows a lot about what we were capable of doing. We executed a lot better after the first couple series. So, we just have to keep that in mind moving forward. We don't have to try to do too much. We just have to be out there each doing our own individual job -- not trying to do too much and just doing what we're asked to do. I think everything will take care of itself."
Flacco and Co. will have to be wary of Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who has an NFL-high 4.0 sacks through two games. Getting the running game going would help to that end. Alex Collins has rushed for only 48 yards.
"We just have to get the running game going," Harbaugh said. "We need to pop some runs. That's the biggest issue. When you hit some long runs, that average goes to where you want it to be. We've had some steadiness with it. I don't think we've been hit in the backfield too many times, but we've had a few pretty solid runs."
Denver received some good news Thursday when quarterback Case Keenum returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday due to a sore knee. Keenum struggled against the Raiders but his favorite has been Emmanuel Sanders, who has 14 receptions.
The biggest surprise for the Broncos has been rookie running back Phillip Lindsay, who went over 100 yards against Oakland and has rushed for 178 yards in two games.
Updated September 20, 2018