BALTIMORE — Slapping his gloved hand against a door outside the Broncos locker room, Rahim Moore sent a message for all within earshot.
"We're in here!"
Hear that, New England?
The Broncos are snorting, streaking and looking Super. Denver’s 34-17 smackdown of Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium delivered a holiday message.
It was loud and clear and said this: If New England can do it (42-14 against Houston, a division leader), Denver had to show it can do it (at Baltimore, a division leader), too.
"Last Monday night, the New England Patriots kind of sent a message to everyone in this league,” veteran linebacker Keith Brooking said afterward in the locker room. "They showed us what we’re going against when we get into the playoffs."
Denver’s opponents learned Sunday what they will be going against in the playoffs:
A big, bad defense capable of shutdown stops (the Ravens’ six three-and-outs were the most by an NFL team this season) or big plays (Chris Harris’ 98-yard interception return for a touchdown, the longest regular-season interception return in club history).
"I didn't expect (Joe Flacco) to throw it there," Harris said of the biggest play.
"This was a game where we wanted to test ourselves," Moore said. "We came ready to play."
Afterward in the locker room, multiple players praised Jack Del Rio’s handiwork with this defense.
"I just don't know how long he's going to be around,” Champ Bailey said of Del Rio, who should be a head-coaching candidate somewhere.
The Broncos "D" is nasty good right now, the kind we are accustomed to seeing in Baltimore — from the home team. Instead, the proud crowd booed its 9-5 Ravens.
It was the fourth straight road game Denver’s defense has turned a home crowd against its team. Cincy booed the Bengals. KC booed the Chiefs. Oakland booed the Raiders.
If Denver — sorry, when Denver — is assigned to play New England in the playoffs, this will need to be the best defense Denver's ever had.
“We know how good we can be,” Elvis Dumervil said.
“You’re still looking to play that perfect 60-minute game,” Peyton Manning said.
Manning passed for 204 yards and a touchdown. He has a nine-game winning streak against Baltimore. Denver has a nine-game winning streak against NFL teams.
Prior to their most recent meeting — way back on Oct. 7, when Denver was a different team and lost, 31-21 — Tom Brady had nine wins (and four losses) against Manning.
Is there a better AFC team than New England or Denver? Nein.
The Texans are average (2-2) against division leaders, aka, playoff teams. The Ravens are watching their window close. The Colts are lovable, the Bengals dangerous. Neither is ready.
“We just want to keep this thing going,” said Knowshon Moreno, only the third player to rush for more than 100 yards at Baltimore in the past four years.
The Broncos claim not to look past the next opponent, Cleveland on Sunday. We can. The football stars are aligning for another Manning-Brady masterpiece in the playoffs.
You know it. I know it. The Broncos are smarter and won’t say it — I tried Sunday — but their locker room feels it.
“You set yourself up for the playoffs in December. Bill Belichick's teams are playing their best football in December,” Brooking said. "In order to be playing where we want to be playing in February, we’ve got to be playing our best ball in December and January.”
"The Patriots, they’re definitely out there," Moore added. "But you know what? We’re out here. We respect our opponent, but at the same time, we’re out here.”
To accessorize his suit in the postgame locker room, Von Miller slipped on a pair of sparkling gold sneakers.
Perhaps if he clicks them together three times, the Broncos would be sent to Foxboro — or, for a real playoff party, a home game against the Patriots.
This thing is headed that direction.