The game was over from that point as the defense played with renewed energy and the offense continued to move the ball at will.
Watching Reed and Lewis in the postgame interview room fielding question after question about their quarterback and the explosive offense following the game, it was clear which unit resembled the one that was along for the ride this time as Flacco and the Ravens offense dictated the pace with the new no-huddle attack and owned the swagger in the season-opening win.
“When [quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell] came in, a guy who coached a Hall of Famer in Peyton Manning, you’ve got to know Joe’s going to get even better than where he was already heading,” Reed said. “Joe has gotten better every year. This is what we’ve seen all camp with Joe, just throwing the ball to those guys, putting it right in their chest, putting it right in their hands. You see that. Those guys trust him and want to make plays for him.”
Not knowing how effective the defense can be as it depends on unproven players at both outside linebacker positions, Lewis and Reed will need more help than ever to realize their longtime goal of reaching the Super Bowl. The 37-year-old Lewis last played in the pinnacle of the sport when he was 26 years old and desperately wants to get back there while Reed — who turns 34 Tuesday — has never reached the NFL’s biggest game.
After years of carrying the offense on their backs and falling painfully short on several occasions, the two defensive players considered to be the heart and soul of the franchise for over a decade now see a new face on the opposite side of the ball unlike any that’s come before in their respective careers. A team known for its dominating defense now appears on the verge of leaning on its offense to keep the sum of the parts at an elite level.
It hasn’t happened over night and Monday’s result certainly doesn’t stamp the official proclamation of an elite offense that’s here to stay, but it was difficult not to see the signs of a transformation Monday as Lewis and Reed praised the starting quarterback. Lewis reminded everyone it was only one game and much work and improvement needed to be made in all phases of the game, but his answer when asked whether this was the offense he’s waited for all these years said it all about the overall feeling on this team.
“I’ve been here a long time,” said Lewis, his voice trailing off into a sigh and laughter. “You can finish that off for me.”