The Ravens surprised a lot of people with this victory over Cincinnati. The story was supposed to be the Bengals’ prolific offense against a banged-up Ravens defense. Quarterback Joe Flacco was supposed to be under siege by the Cincinnati defense all day behind an untested offensive line.
Baltimore survived an early turnover, and Flacco looked confident all day in the pocket. The Ravens never allowed Bengals QB Carson Palmer to find receivers deep consistently as Cincy only had four plays for 10 yards or more – all through the air – while each of the Ravens’ top-10 yardage plays were for 10 or more yards.
Here is the scorecard:
RAVENS OFFENSE: The Ravens controlled the clock (36:15, including 13:17 in the fourth quarter alone) and converted 9-of-17 third-down chances (53 percent) which kept quarterback Joe Flacco from having to do too much with his arm to win. The play-calling by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was imaginative with a double reverse for a score, and even Flacco got into the act with a 38-yard rambling touchdown on a busted play. The Ravens had three or more first downs on five drives, including a clock-killing march that took off the final 7:15 of the game. A total of 12 of Baltimore’s 21 first downs came off running plays.
RAVENS DEFENSE: The Ravens’ defense came out with their usual intensity, and protected the secondary by putting continuous pressure on Palmer to keep him from going through his receiver progressions. They took the fight to the Bengals and Cincinnati could not match it. Ravens had two sacks, five quarterback hits and six tackles for loss. Cincy punted seven times and turned the ball over twice more on their 12 drives. The Bengals were 2-of-13 on third-down attempts.
RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Ravens P Sam Koch had a ridiculous day with a 46.0-yard net punting average. K Matt Stover was 1-for-2 in field-goal attempts. An illegal block penalty cost Yamon Figurs a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown.
KEY TO THE GAME: The Ravens converted 9-of-17 third-down chances as Flacco passed for three of the nine conversions.
STAT THAT DOES NOT TELL THE WHOLE STORY: The Ravens’ offensive line did not allow a sack and allowed Flacco to be hit once in 75 offensive plays.
WHAT THEY CAN BUILD ON: The Ravens played with a sense of urgency from the first play under head coach John Harbaugh and kept that intensity all the way through. Rex Ryan’s defense hit as hard as always and Cameron’s offense calls kept Cincy off-balance and the Bengals’ offense off the field in big stretches.
CLEAN-UP CREW: The Ravens had nine penalties for 64 yards, and fumbled the ball away twice. One of the fumbles was returned for a touchdown to make the game closer than it should have been. The big penalty on the special teams also cost the Ravens a touchdown by Figurs.
NEXT UP: The Ravens travel to Houston to play a Texans team that took a beating from the Steelers in their opener. The Bengals have their home opener vs. Tennessee.