BALTIMORE — The Denver Broncos no longer can be considered a notch below the best in the AFC, nor can they be viewed as a team that can succeed only when Peyton Manning puts up dazzling numbers.
Their 34-17 rout of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday showed just how good these Broncos can be.
Chris Harris returned an interception 98 yards for a momentum-turning touchdown, and Denver cruised to its ninth straight victory in surprisingly easy fashion.
"You come to the Ravens' house and beat them handily, it's definitely a statement game," Harris said. "We definitely wanted to show to everybody that we're an elite team."
Manning threw for 204 yards and a score in his ninth consecutive win against Baltimore, the first with the Broncos (11-3).
But he was merely a role player in this one, because Denver's defense dominated the Ravens, who sputtered in their first game with Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator.
This was supposed to be a test for Denver, which was 0-5 in Baltimore and was eager to face a quality opponent on the road.
"Pat Bowlen has owned the team for 29 years and has averaged 10 wins a season, but it's the first time he's won in this building," Broncos coach John Fox said. "I was proud to see that for him."
Down 10-0 late in the first half, the Ravens had a first-and-goal at the Denver 4 when Harris stepped in front of Anquan Boldin, picked off a pass by Joe Flacco and sprinted down the right sideline with Flacco in pursuit. The quarterback tripped up Harris, who tumbled into the end zone, leaving Flacco flat on his stomach and with a cut lip.
"He just ran the out route and I was waiting to see when he was going to look back at the quarterback," Harris said. "As soon as he looked back, I looked back and the ball was there. I just made a play on the ball."