DENVER (AP) _ All through Baltimore's 4-0 start, Steve McNair had lived up to his billing as the antithesis of a typical Ravens quarterback: experienced, workmanline, a savvy game manager who would avoid mistakes and let the Baltimore defense shine.
Until he lobbed a pass to the corner of the end zone where Champ Bailey was lurking, that is.
The Denver Broncos, it turns out, know a little about defense themselves, derailing the Ravens with a 13-3 win Monday night made possible by three interceptions _ including Bailey's leaping pick in the end zone just before halftime.
``You can't expect to win the game on just three points,'' said McNair, who completed 20-of-34 passes for only 165 yards. ``I didn't manage the game as well as I should have. I take the blame for this one.''
Just as well, since everyone was crediting McNair's steady hand _ paired with a Ravens defense that's still among the NFL's most intimidating _ for Baltimore's fast start.
After the game, the Broncos (3-1) were still bemoaning what they perceive as a lack of respect. Despite allowing only one touchdown all season, the Denver defense feels dissed: All week long they heard about how the Baltimore Ravens were the industry standard.
According to Williams, a Baltimore player even called the Broncos' defense ``soft'' in a newspaper story.
``We've got a tough defense,'' Williams said. ``That got us pumped up when they said we were 'soft.' We were like, 'We're going to show them who's soft.'''
Turns out, the Broncos showed everybody.
``Our defense has been pretty consistent this year,'' Mike Shanahan said. ``Hopefully we can continue to play the defense we've been playing.''
The combination of cold, rainy weather and two defenses out to prove they're the best around turned the game into mostly a field-goal contest. Matt Stover connected from 24 yards in the first quarter to give the Ravens an early 3-0 lead. Jason Elam kicked a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter and then a 44-yarder with 8:03 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Broncos a 6-3 lead.
The Broncos put the game away on Rod Smith's 4-yard touchdown grab, which was set up by Williams' interception. Plummer's rainbow pass into the corner of the end zone with 1:55 left _ not unlike the one Baltimore tried Bailey's way earlier in the game _ was Smith's first touchdown of the season.
With a 6-3 lead, the Broncos could've sent Elam on for another kick. But besides icing the game, Shanahan's call for the fade pass to the corner sent a subtle message: We're not afraid of your defense.
``We saw on film that we had the chance to get the fade there,'' said quarterback Jake Plummer, who was 13-for-24 for 106 yards and one interception. ``I just threw it up there for Rod.''
Down 10 points, the Ravens drove the ball to the Denver 34 with less than a minute remaining, but McNair threw his third pick of the night to Domonique Foxworth.
``We cannot depend on the comeback every week,'' McNair said. ``We have to play a whole 60 minutes. We had opportunities to score and we didn't, and that is what we have to work on.''
Brian Billick echoed those thoughts.
``I know it's cliche but turnovers are always critical to a game,'' Billick said.
The one McNair would like to have back was a lofted pass he threw to 6-foot-6 wideout Clarence Moore in the right corner of the end zone with 30 seconds left before halftime of a 3-3 game. He didn't put enough air under it and Bailey picked it off for his first interception of the season.
``That was the play of the game to me,'' said Darrent Williams, who had a fourth-quarter interception. ``They could've easily gotten three points and gone into halftime with a three-point lead. That might have been the end of the game right there.''
Baltimore's Trevor Pryce didn't have much to say all week as he prepared to play his old team. Pryce, who was released in the offseason, only had one tackle against the Broncos.
``The loss hurts, but I really don't care who it is against,'' he said. ``They are just another football team. The thing is, they are a great football team. They always have been. They were before I got there and they are now that I'm gone.''
As for the loss, it won't be weighing on Pryce's mind for long.
``We're 4-1,'' he said. ``What's there to complain about?''
Notes: The Broncos have until Tuesday to decide what to do about P Todd Sauerbrun, who is coming off a four-game suspension for using a banned dietary supplement. Paul Ernster has punted well in his absence. ... John Lynch suffered a pinched neck in the fourth quarter.