FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2015, file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) talks with head coach Gary Kubiak prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Denver. The Ravens enjoyed having Gary Kubiak on their side
Jack Dempsey, File
September 10, 2015

DENVER (AP) Gary Kubiak's imprint is all over the teams that will take the field Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens visit the Denver Broncos in one of the best matchups of opening weekend.

With Kubiak calling the shots as their offensive coordinator last season, the Ravens set franchise records in points (409) and yardage (5,838).

He emphatically insisted he would stay in Baltimore. Then, his dream job opened. And back to Denver he flew to reunite with John Elway, whom he backed up during his playing career.

Marc Trestman has taken over as Baltimore's offensive coordinator, but the unit's identity remains the same, built around the zone-blocking scheme that helped quarterback Joe Flacco to the best season of his seven-year career and turned journeyman running back Justin Forsett into a Pro Bowler.

''He definitely is the author of the way that the scheme is run nowadays and the way we're doing it,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Nobody knows better what to expect out of the Ravens than Kubiak, who has reintroduced zone-blocking in Denver.

''Everyone knows what kind of team we are,'' Forsett said. ''We have an identity of being a run-first team, a team that's physical - smash-mouth football.''

That's what the Broncos are trying to become once again after airing it out aplenty under Peyton Manning, who has averaged 44 TD passes since coming to Denver in 2012.

Kubiak inherited two solid running backs that should thrive in this system: Pro Bowler C.J. Anderson and fifth-year pro Ronnie Hillman, who averaged 7.4 yards a carry in the preseason. Kubiak said Hillman reminds him of Forsett, who ran for a career-best 1,266 yards last year and led the league with a 5.4-yard average.

Other things to keep an eye on Sunday when the Ravens try to avoid a repeat of the 2013 opener when Manning threw seven TD passes in a 49-27 rout of the Ravens:

SLOW START? The Broncos gave Manning some days off in August so that he'd be fresher late in the season, and Elway isn't expecting the new offense to be a polished product for a while.

''It's going to be a work in progress through the year,'' he said. ''We're not going to be kicking on all cylinders.''

Two big reasons: The O-line hasn't played a single game-day down together because two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis joined the team late and Pro Bowl receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders didn't line up together until last week.

HAPPY RETURN: Denver will always be special to Flacco. It's where his career took off.

In a playoff game on a frigid Jan. 12, 2013, Flacco hit Jacoby Jones with a 70-yard TD throw in the final minute of regulation and the Ravens went on to beat the Broncos 38-35 in double overtime. That vaulted them to the Super Bowl title and Flacco to superstar status.

''I think that will be pretty high no matter what happens from here on out,'' Flacco said. ''If we go on to win 30 more Super Bowls, that'll always be the first one and kind of what catapulted us to that spot that year.''

HAPPY RETURNS: The Ravens parted ways with Jones during the offseason, so it appears as if Michael Campanaro will be summoned to fill the void returning back punts and kickoffs.

''Jacoby is a Pro Bowl returner and made huge plays his entire career, so it's tough to fill shoes like that,'' Campanaro said. ''But I definitely bring playmaking ability back there.''

HAPPY RETURNER: Sanders is raising his hand - and not just to signal for a fair catch.

The Broncos' speedy wide receiver who's coming off a career season is preparing to return punts for the first time since his senior season at SMU.

''Why not? It's an opportunity to get the ball in my hands and it's an opportunity to make plays,'' Sanders said.

UNDER PRESSURE: The big addition to the Broncos' pass rush this year had a jaw-dropping preseason, one in which he led the team with 15 tackles, a dozen solo stops, four sacks, four tackles for loss and nine quarterback hurries.

No, not first-round pick Shane Ray.

Second-year pro Shaquil Barrett, an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State who spent most of last season on the practice squad.


AP NFL website: and


AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg contributed to this report.


Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:

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