As Glenn Clark said on “The Nasty Purple Post-Game Show” following the Ravens 44-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, John Harbaugh and the Ravens staffers should just tell their players that every week in the first week of the season.
It’s the second straight year that the Ravens laid a whooping to an AFC North foe in their Week 1 opener, as the Ravens slaughtered the Pittsburgh Steelers 35-7 in front of their home crowd in 2011.
The Ravens wasted no time showing off their no-huddle, “sugar” offense, as quarterback Joe Flacco quickly found WR Torrey Smith on the first play of the game for a 52-yard gain to grab an early 3-0 lead, and never looked back.
The Ravens out-gained the Bengals 430-322 in total yards, and forced three Cincinnati turnovers as the visitors fell behind 24-13 in the third quarter and were forced to play catch-up.
Which they never did.
That’s when the Ravens pounced on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, as Ravens safety Ed Reed did what he does best against the Cincinnati-grabbing his tenth career interception against the visiting team and helped make a comeback all but inevitable.
The Ravens move into sole place in the AFC North with a 1-0 record and travel to Philadelphia next week to take on the Eagles.
But how did the Ravens do Monday night? I rate how they did against the Bengals…
Joe Flacco was without a doubt the player of the game for the Baltimore Ravens, as anointed by Glenn post-game on “The Nasty Purple Post Game Show”.
Flacco finished 21-of-29 for 299 yards and two touchdowns. He had perfect touch on his deep call, connecting on long throws to Smith and wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a 34-yard strike.
Often times, Bengals corners Leon Hall and Nate Clements-who have had success against Flacco in his young NFL career-had good coverage on the receiver, but the Ravens fifth-year QB couldn’t have put the ball in a better spot for his receiver to make the play, and not the DB.
He did have several passes that could have been intercepted by the Bengals, but they fell incomplete and were insignificant in the outcome of the game.
Also give credit to Flacco for trusting his offensive line, which included rookie OL Kelechi Osemele and Ramon Harewood making their first NFL starts, and tackle Michael Oher playing out of position, to keep him upright in the face of a sometimes threatening Bengals pass rush.
Running Back 5/5
A casual observer may look at Ravens RB Ray Rice’s yardage in the game and say, “The Bengals stopped Ray Rice.”
That was certainly not the case, as Rice finished with 68 yards rushing on just 10 carries.
Simply put-Joe Flacco and the Ravens receiving corps were the stars of the show.
The Ravens had the opportunity to showcase their no-huddle offense and its best, and continue to pass in it with success.
And if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it.
Rice had two touchdowns in short yardage near the goal line, and for a guy who has had those opportunities taken away from him over the last couple seasons, it’s good to see-as long as he has Vonta Leach in front of him.
Rice also added 25 yards through the air, including a big catch on a 4th-and-1 saving Joe Flacco from a drive-ending incompletion.
He capped that drive with his 30th overall touchdown, and Baltimore took a 10-0 lead with 6:08 left in the first and never looked back.
Hard to not give this unit a perfect score given what Joe Flacco did with the football.
But receiver Torrey Smith was almost a non-factor after his first quarter connection with the Ravens quarterback.
Tight end Ed Dickson was almost irrelevant in his first regular season action since spraining his shoulder in preseason, but had good coverage on him all game.
Anquan Boldin may have been the benefactor of a good call from the NFL’s replacement refs, as his 34-yard touchdown pass that put the Ravens up 17-3 with 12:34 remaining in the 2nd quarter appeared to have touched the ground.
But replays-which are shown to officials on all scoring plays now in 2012-showed no conclusive evidence to overturn the call, so the touchdown stood for the Ravens.
Dennis Pitta had a career-high 73 yards and a touchdown-in his first game since breaking his hand in training camp. Imagine what he can do with Flacco once that injury is completely behind him…
Offensive Line: 4/5
This unit played well considering three-fifths of the unit was playing out of position. Michael Oher, the team’s right tackle from last season, was forced to return to left tackle given the conditioning concerns of Bryant McKinnie moving forward.
Oher allowed the Ravens to keep up the pace with their no-huddle offense, and on several plays made blocks way down the field, including a 3rd quarter outside screen to Ray Rice.
Also for Oher, there were no outlying concerns about Oher with false starts, holding calls, or just struggling with his man.
The Ravens also had Ramon Harewood starting at left guard in his first ever NFL start-a position he had never played until this preseason, and rookie second-round pick Kelechi Osemele started at right tackle.
Geno Atkins recorded two sacks for the Bengals, while Thomas Howard had the Bengals other quarterback grab. Both came early on in the game, and for a unit trying to be cohesive with each other, the unit did its part protecting Flacco.
Defensive Line: 2.5/5
This unit didn’t show up until the game was far out of reach for the Bengals, and they knew they could rush Bengals QB Andy Dalton.
It wasn’t until then that they started to rattle Dalton and force him to make mistakes.
The Bengals were able to churn out three long scoring drives of 76, 75, and 79 yards.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Both nose tackles Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Terrence Cody were blown off the ball to make plays, but Haloti Ngata‘s four tackles, pass deflections and two sacks bailed this unit out.
Ray Lewis had 14 tackles Monday night.
Remember-he’s 37 years old. Maybe losing that weight and dropping to 235 pounds was a good idea for Lewis, who was able to keep up with the Bengals’ speedy receivers over the middle and was able to build up some speed to sack and force a fumble on Andy Dalton.
Linebacker Courtney Upshaw-in his regular season debut-shared a sack late in the game and also drew pressure on Dalton, forcing him to sail a ball high that safety Ed Reed came down with and returned for a touchdown that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Bengals.
Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe did not start, but saw more action against the Bengals receivers due to his speed. Jameel McClain was brought in on short yardage situations.
Not one of the Ravens defensive backs have to hang their head in shame after holding Dalton to 221 yards.
Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams didn’t allow WR A.J. Green to shift momentum back to the Bengals, and safety Bernard Pollard did an exceptional job patrolling the middle and containing TE Jermaine Gresham.
And Ed Reed continued to be himself against the Bengals, as he earned his seventh pick-six of his NFL career, and passed fellow Raven alum Rod Woodson for career interception return yardage.
Special Teams: 5/5
Rookie kicker Justin Tucker went 3-for-3 in his first taste of real NFL action. All you can ask for…
Sam Koch punted one of his two punts inside the 20 yard line.
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