DENVER - Ready or not, the Ravens return.
As the Broncos make final preparations for the biggest, baddest season opener in club history, one more humble suggestion from the cheap seats:
Show them the tape, coach.
To make certain the Broncos are ready to beat the Ravens, this time on a sweaty Thursday night at Sports Authority Field, add this to the motivational handbook.
Replay the Mile High Mistake.
Press play through all the forgettable details of Ravens 38, Broncos 35 (2OT).
Blast the A/C in the video room until it drops to 14 degrees, the temperature at kickoff.
Pop in the DVD from the playoff game and send the players a last-minute reminder: That happened.
"If he were to do that, guys would get jacked," veteran running back Knowshon Moreno said when I asked him if this was a good idea.
"But I think without watching that tape of that game, guys are going to be jacked. Not only to play them; but to get this season going," Moreno continued. "We want to play fast. We want to start fast.
"I do think guys would be fired up if he showed that tape, though."
How often do we hear this coachspeak after a game: We need to watch the tape first.
Well, here's the perfect opportunity to actually mean it.
"I've watched it tons of times. I'll watch it again," cornerback Chris Harris said. "I mean, the teams are different. But it's still the Ravens. They've still got (Joe) Flacco. They've still got Ray Rice. They've still got a lot of their core guys. That's the only thing I'm looking at.
"It's the Ravens, man. That's the last team that beat us. That's what matters."
This is no time for playing nice. You know the dirty birds from Baltimore won't.
These Broncos are nice. Maybe too nice, on defense. Who is the thumper? The big hitter other teams fear?
Wesley Woodyard. That's one. Derek Wolfe? You hope. Duke Ihenacho? Kayvon Webster? Maybe, maybe. Von Miller is out until Week 7 at Indianapolis.
I see a team that hums through a bad AFC West and excellent regular season to win 11, 12, maybe 13 games - on finesse, not force.
In their locker room Wednesday, I heard one Bronco tell another Bronco: "Stick with the clich?, man."
The rematch of the Mile High Mistake is no place for clich?, or playing nice.
Every day in real life, we're told to uphold the politically correct. Be nice. Hug your neighbor, or a kitten. Don't offend anyone.
Sports should be the escape.
If the Broncos aren't offended by what transpired Jan. 12 - 235 days ago, if it seems like yesterday - their competitive spirit should be drug tested.
If the Broncos don't seem offended by the Ravens, show 'em the tape.
Show how the NFL's top pass rush sacked the Ravens quarterback only once.
Show how Miller was inches away from batting down Flacco's fling.
Show the clutch third-and-13 completion from Flacco (he's back, this time with a banner) to Dennis Pitta (he's back, but injured) from their 3-yard line.
Show how the Broncos wasted Trindon Holliday's twin touchdown returns.
Show Peyton Manning going 24 of 37 for 261 yards and three touchdowns in regulation and then taking a knee to accept overtime.
Show Jacoby Jones crossing the goal line.
"That is stunning," CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf said then.
My toes are frozen, I said then.
(Shoot), the crowd said then.
"I'm happy to be out there," safety Rahim Moore said Wednesday. "You never know when it's going to be your last day on this earth, on that field. You never know. Tomorrow is never promised."
Just once I want to hear a player tell us the next one isn't just another game.
Set free from the stoic Patriot Way, Wes Welker came close. He's new here, but the Ravens ended his season, too, in New England.
"It's just another game, but at the same time I don't think you can help having a little extra juice for this one, kicking off the season like this," Welker said.
The past 10 Super Bowl champs were 7-3 in their openers. To open their Super Bowl seasons in 1997 and 1998, the Broncos beat the Patriots (27-21) and the Chiefs (19-3). Neither came easy; neither will this one.
Moore will be glad when this game is over.
The Broncos, in general, will be glad to press forward. First, they should press rewind.
How did the Broncos lose to the Ravens? After 11 straight wins, they got comfortable.
Top executive John Elway said during the offseason he wants an "uncomfortable" feeling in this Broncos locker room.
What better way than this: Show them the tape.
Twitter: @Klee_GazetteReport Card Offense We remember the overtime interception to Corey Graham. But in regulation against the Ravens, Peyton Manning was superb: 24 of 37 with 261 yards and three touchdowns. Advantage: Broncos Defense Hey, the Broncos couldn’t get to Joe Flacco with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil; why should we expect they will with neither? The Broncos had one sack in the playoff game. Advantage: Ravens Special teams The Broncos have a $13-million punter and $13-million kicker. But the biggest impact in the playoffs came from Trindon Holliday, whose touchdown returns were an NFL first. Advantage: Broncos Coaching If the Broncos are in a tie game with 31 seconds, two timeouts and the ball on the 20, John Fox won’t take a knee. Or would he? To go for it would be admitting a mistake. Advantage: Ravens Intangibles Since 1972, only one franchise has more regular-season wins than the Broncos’ 352 (Steelers, 362). For Denver, this season is all about the playoffs. And beating the Ravens. Advantage: Broncos GLOVE OR NO GLOVE Klee with Three An underappreciated variable in the Mile High Mistake was the weather. It was 13 degrees at kickoff, the fourth-coldest temperature in Broncos history. Here’s the weird part: I remember wearing shorts to Dove Valley that week. It had to be 60 degrees. (Check that. The Internet says it was 58 and sunny on that Wednesday). Peyton Manning won’t say so, because it would come across as an excuse, but I expect the numbing temperature limited his ability to throw deep. The Broncos rarely did. And Manning had suffered nerve damage prior to surgery, you know. Instead of putting the game away by airing it out, the Broncos turned to a shaky running game during a key drive in the fourth quarter. No worries this time around: Thursday’s forecast calls for 85 degrees at kickoff. Tickets, tickets, tickets, There is a better ticket than one that gets you into Sports Authority Field. Its numbers: 05, 25, 30, 58, 59 and 32. That was the winning ticket from the $448-million Powerball jackpot last week. After some investigative reporting — OK, we searched Craigslist — it appears the Powerball ticket is almost necessary to get the Broncos ticket. Two tickets in Section 125 go for $400 (contact Adam). Two in club level are $600 (contact Jeremey). These outrageous prices support my theory that Peyton Manning’s $96-million contract was the best value in Denver sports. Prime-time players? Last year after Labor Day, five of the 30 most-watched television programs were Broncos games. This tells us two things. The Bachelor has nothing on Peyton. And TV executives are no dummies. In the first two weeks of this NFL season, the Broncos figure to play in the two most-watched games (vs. Ravens, vs. Eli Manning’s Giants). The Broncos-Colts game in Week 7 on Oct. 20 — a Sunday night ratings bonanza — might beat ’em both. So if there is any question why the Broncos were chosen to host the Ravens in the NFL opener, this statistic should put it to rest: An estimated 45.5 million viewers watched the first overtime of their playoff game in January. That’s thought to be a record. Paul Klee, The Gazette