The Ravens declared their intentions before the first snap when they saw Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos last month.
Instead of coming out in a base defense, coordinator Dean Pees sent out his nickel package.
The message: Prove that Knowshon Moreno can run the football.
That he did, getting 115 yards on 21 carries in a 34-17 victory at M&T Bank Stadium. In all, the Broncos rushed on 45 of 77 plays for a 163 total yards as Manning made audibles to running plays.
The Ravens were determined to limit his ability to make big plays in the passing attack, but they lost the time-of-possession battle 39 minutes to 21. Manning threw for just 204 yards and his only TD pass came on a 51-yard strike to Eric Decker in the third quarter.
With more personnel available for the rematch, the Ravens can give Manning different looks Saturday in a divisional playoff game at Mile High Stadium (CBS, 4:30 p.m. ET).
Instead of having Josh Bynes taking all the snaps at middle linebacker, Pees will have Ray Lewis who returned from a torn triceps in last week’s 24-9 victory vs. the Indianapolis Colts in wild-card game.
Bynes, who was on the practice squad to begin the season, had only made one appearance a season ago as a rookie. The Broncos game was his first start and he played all 77 plays as quarterback of the defense. The Ravens already had lost linebacker Jameel McClain for the season because of a spinal contusion. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (ankle) and safety Bernard Pollard (ribs) were out for three-game stretches but are expected to play this time.
“I don’t think it changes too much how we look at Peyton,” Pees said. “We have to decide what can they do well, what can’t they do well, what can we put them in to have success. So, it’s kind of the same. We now take some guys that we’ve added back into the equation and say, ‘OK, can we now go back and do some of these things well?’”
Despite its failures in that game overall, the defense began well. They forced Manning into a three-plays-and-out on his first possession. After Flacco fumbled and the Broncos got a field goal to take a 3-0 lead, the defense forced consecutive three-plays-and-out series.
Flacco couldn't get the offense jump-started as Manning and Moreno made enough plays to secure an easy victory.
Pees has been good at mixing up personnel all season, such as moving Arthur Jones inside and Haloti Ngata outside, to revive a unit that was ranked 27th the NFL at the midseason point but finished 17th overall.