This was no time for diplomacy. The Ravens have redemption on the agenda for their trip to Sports Authority Field at Mile High after a 34-17 loss to the Broncos in Baltimore on Dec. 16.
“I was hoping we would get them,” said Boldin, who had 145 yards and one touchdown in linebacker Ray Lewis’s final home game. “So they’ll see us next week.”
Boldin was asked why the outcome would be different this time. The Broncos have won 11 in a row with quarterback Peyton Manning at the top of his game and the NFL’s second-ranked defense.
“We’ll make it different,” Boldin said without hesitation.
History suggests otherwise. Manning is 2-0 in the playoffs against the Ravens, and 8-2 against them overall. Both playoff victories came when Manning was with the Colts, the most recent a 20-3 win in the second round in January 2010 when the four-time MVP threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns.
A month ago, Manning threw for a season-low 204 yards and one touchdown against the Ravens, but the Broncos got 115 rushing yards and a touchdown from tailback Knowshon Moreno. Since taking over as the starter on Nov. 25, Moreno has rushed for 510 yards and three touchdowns.
The Ravens managed 278 total yards, their third-fewest this season, and committed two turnovers in what at the time was a third consecutive loss.
“You know, in the playoffs, you play great teams,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said. “Every single team you play is a great football team. We’ve got a lot of respect for them. Denver came in here and played really well against us and beat us pretty good.”
In the week leading up to that game, Lewis had begun to practice seriously for the first time since he tore his right triceps, an injury that kept the two-time defensive player of the year out from Oct. 14 until last week. At Lewis’s request, the Ravens did not place the future Hall of Famer on injured reserve, and he made it back for a farewell run in the playoffs.
Lewis has announced that he will retire at the conclusion of this season, ending a 17-year career that includes 13 Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl MVP award.
Wearing a protective brace Sunday to help stabilize his injury, Lewis finished with a team-high 13 tackles, although he did drop what appeared a sure interception.
“I told [teammates], ‘We don’t have the 24-hour rule now [to celebrate]. We have a less-than-12-hour rule’ because we are back to work,” he said. “We know who we have next week. Denver is going to be well-rested, but now we get them with all our guys back.”
The Broncos have not lost in more than three months. Since falling to the New England Patriots, 31-21, in Week 5, Denver only twice has scored fewer than 30 points, and Manning has thrown multiple touchdowns in all but three of those games.
In the final month of the regular season, Manning threw 11 touchdowns with three interceptions and kept his name near the top of the list for MVP consideration. Only Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers had a higher passer rating this season, and only Rodgers and New Orleans’s Drew Brees threw for more touchdowns.
“They’re always classic, I’ll tell you that,” Lewis said of his confrontations with Manning. “It’s just one of those chess matches. He knows me very well. I know him very well. He’s dealing with a lot of different new faces out there, but they’ve done a heck of a job adjusting to his scheme and getting them playing real fast out there.
“At the end of the day it’s not about me and Peyton. It’s about their team against our team, and I just like our team. I love our team right now, and I’m really looking forward to going out there and playing them.”