DENVER – John Elway has been down this lonely road before, trudging through the tunnel in deafening silence after a stunning loss at home as the AFCs prohibitive Super Bowl favorite following a 13-3 regular season.
It happened to Elway the quarterback after the 1996 season when Denver lost to Jacksonville 30-27. It occurred again for Elway the executive in January when the Broncos were beaten 38-35 by Baltimore in the divisional round.
Elway rebounded the first time to win back-to-back Super Bowls. He said the pain of that pratfall against the Jaguars was the impetus to make them into champions.
It was a great incentive for us to come back and have an even better year the following year, Elway said.
After engineering a $125 million offseason spending spree and acquiring receiver Wes Welker and massive right guard Louis Vasquez – to help new center Manny Ramirez fend off the likes of Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata – Elway is aiming for history to repeat itself after this latest heartbreak.
Three things to watch for as the Broncos kick off the season tonight against the champion Ravens:
Doom & Gloom is what Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller called themselves in Denver, where the Pro Bowl pass rushers combined for 29 1/2 of the Broncos league-leading 52 sacks in 2012.
Dumervil signed with the Ravens in free agency after his infamous fax foul-up in Denver led to his release by the Broncos.
He wont see Miller tonight because Denvers All-Pro linebacker is serving a six-game drug suspension.
For the first time in the Ravens 18-year existence, Ray Lewis isnt manning middle linebacker.
Daryl Smith, who signed a free agent deal in June, is the veteran replacement. Hes a sure tackler entering his 10th season and could help provide some of the veteran presence the Ravens lost.
Smith was part of a Ravens defensive revamp as they also said goodbye to veteran Pro Bowler Ed Reed, former South Side and Purdue star Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger, and Cary Williams, and hello to Dumervil, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears and Michael Huff.
Cornerback Champ Bailey wont play in the opener because of a sprained left foot. The 15th-year pro was ruled out Wednesday. He hasnt practiced since getting hurt in a preseason game at Seattle on Aug. 17.
Denver will start Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in Baileys place alongside right cornerback Chris Harris with Tony Carter getting work at nickel.
Bailey plans to play against the New York Giants in Week 2.