Posted Mon Oct 11th by Monty
“It’s huge to look into a guy’s eye in the fourth quarter and know he’s tired,” Baltimore Ravens fullback Le’Ron McClain said. “We’ve got him. We’ve worn him out.”
Le’Ron McClain is right. There’s nothing bigger for a football player than knowing you have your opponent’s number, and knowing he knows it, too. You know the feeling of defeat is seeping into your opponent’s helmet with every hit; the inevitable self-doubt is multiplying with every painful smack of shoulder pads.
Denver was eye-to-eye with Baltimore. The Broncos blinked.
“For the first time,” Josh McDaniels relented, “I thought our mental toughness was questioned.”
The Broncos began the game mentally and physically ready to do battle, as evidenced by the defense’s four-down goal-line stand that kept the Ravens out of the end zone.
Yet, in less than a quarter of play, the Broncos raised their white flag. Somewhere between Jason Hunter‘s 14-yard sack of Joe Flacco with 9:06 left in the first quarter that iced the Ravens’ opening drive and Billy Cundiff‘s 37-yard field goal that gave Baltimore a 17-0 lead with 9:21 left in the second quarter, the seeds of despair were planted.
14 minutes and 45 seconds was all it took to take the wind out of Denver’s sails.
The Broncos fought the feeling for the rest of the half, not allowing another Ravens first down until intermission, but, like McDaniels, they relented in the end. The Ravens rushed for 72 yards before halftime; they added 161 before the final whistle blew.
Denver was toe-to-toe with Baltimore. The Broncos caved.
How does a team recover from such a loss?
The Broncos of 2009 never figured it out. They were 6-0 before entering Baltimore, lost 30-7, then lost 7 of their next 9. The doubt, self-inflicted and Baltimore-inflicted and Denver-reflective, could be seen in every loss to follow.
Like Le’Ron McClain on Sunday, the Broncos’ opponents saw blood in the water in 2009. They looked into the collective eye of the 2009 Broncos and saw defeat.
Will the 2010 Broncos blink, too?