Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh is more than aware of the playmakers the Broncos have in every phase of the game. In a conference call on Tuesday, Harbaugh talked about how his team will look to contain those playmakers, while acknowledging the sizable task at hand.
“This is a game that everybody should be excited about,” Harbaugh said. “We’re just hoping that we can hang in there and pull our end of it. Denver — they’re playing at such a high level on all three phases. It’s probably going to be tough for us to hang in there against them, so we’re hopeful we can do that.”
The talent on the Broncos that Harbaugh talked most about was on the edge, both for the offense and the defense. He called Denver’s edge rushers on defense — linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumervil — “game-wreckers” and also hit on the skills of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
“They have game-wreckers on both ends,” Harbaugh said. “(Miller) and Elvis are just great players off the edge, run and pass. They can turn the game around at any point in time and you have to know where they’re at and what they’re doing at all times.”
Miller is yet to play the Ravens in his NFL career, so quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t experienced the way he can affect games. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of it.
“He adds another element to those guys being able to head to the passer and have a guy on each side,” Flacco said. “They get their hands on the ball and they have a good knack for doing it and we’ve got to make sure we have sound protection inside so we can step up and we’ll have ways to take care of those outside guys.”
Miller and Dumervil have forced six fumbles a piece in 2012.
As the Ravens prepare for a Denver defense that has “playmakers on every level,” according to Harbaugh, they will be doing so with a new offensive coordinator.
On Monday, Baltimore dismissed Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron, ending his five-year tenure. He was replaced with Jim Caldwell, the Ravens quarterbacks coach and former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
“I think maybe (Harbaugh) is looking for a little bit of a spark and trying to get us going a little bit,” Flacco said of the move. “I think the bottom line is we have to get better as an offense and that falls on us as players.”
Flacco added that “not much will change” — schematically or philosophically — in the team’s offensive attack, and that the focus will remain on finding consistency and eliminating mistakes.
“We just have to make sure we get more precise, communicate and just clean up a couple things,” Flacco said. “We’ve had good spurts this year and we’ve got to make sure we do our best job, make sure that we have those on a consistent basis.”
Harbaugh knows that the Broncos offense hasn’t lacked the consistency the way that Baltimore has. He talked about Peyton Manning’s ability to use the pass and spread out a defense, and then attack it by switching to running plays.
“It starts with the pass and the run comes off the pass because he is such a threat,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh was especially concerned with containing the Broncos third-year wideouts, Thomas and Decker. He remembers that he “loved both of those guys” when they entered the league in the NFL draft, but “Denver got to them first.”
On the same field together, Decker and Thomas create all sorts of matchup problems.
“They present a lot of challenges because they are so complimentary to one another but are so varied in what they are able to do,” Harbaugh said. “They line up in different places. You have to find them, first, and then you have to figure out how to cover them. It’s a good combination.”
Regarding the status of Baltimore linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs on Sunday, Harbaugh hardly gave any indication.
Lewis was placed on IR designated to return after injuring his triceps in Week 6. On Sunday, he is eligible to return, but it isn’t clear it he’ll play.
“We’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “If I knew if he was coming up (going to be active) at this point, I’d tell you, but I don’t have that answer.”
Suggs sat out last week in Washington with a biceps injury. He returned to practice on Wednesday.