The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 17-10 in a game that wasn't anywhere near as close as the score indicated. If not for a poor call that led to a fumble on an unnecessary play, the Ravens could have and should have blown out the Bengals. Cincinnati's offense did not score a TD all day, and it was only the third time in his career that Bengals QB Carson Palmer threw for under 100 yards. Ravens rookie Joe Flacco enjoyed a great opening to his career and threw in an incredible 38 yard TD run on what appeared to be a busted play. However, Ravens fans must remember it was against a pretty inept Cincinnati team that was just what the doctor ordered (see yesterday's prediction) and we should not expect the Houston Texans to roll over like that in their home opener next week when the Ravens visit them.
Flacco reminded me a lot like Ben Roethlisberger looked when he had that great rookie season for the Steelers a few years ago. His stats line would have looked a lot better if not for a bunch of dropped balls from usually sure-handed receivers, specifically Todd Heap, who also contributed a fumble on the Ravens second play from scrimmage and was virtually invisible all day Sunday (can you say "over-rated?").
Ray Rice ran real well in Willis McGahee's absence, although his fumble caused us fans a little more indigestion late in the game. However, Cam Cameron ran a flawless gameplan and the Bengals never touched the ball again after that miscue as the Ravens ran out the last 7+ minutes of the game with a long drive based on a brutal ground game. The fumble was off a short toss, a play that I thought and yelled that it was too risky and unnecessary to call at that point in the game. Luckily, no harm, no foul in the end, although we were on our way to another score that would have put the game out of reach as the Ravens would have been up by at least three scores with less than eight minutes left in the game.
The offensive line made the Bengals front seven a non-issue all game, as Flacco had loads of time to look for an open receiver and he consistently found his secondary option and dump offs like a veteran. His foot speed will never confuse him with Kyle Boller or Troy Smith, but when was the last time they ran for a 38 yard touchdown!? Smith probably would have ran out of bounds and Boller would have thrown the ball away before crossing the line of scrimmage! The need for Willie Anderson was negated by the fine play of the o-line all day long.
The defense played a lot like they did in 2006, when they were the dominant force in the league. I understand that the Bengals helped us out a bunch, but hey, I'll take it every game if they give it to us. Palmer had little time to make decisions and we barely heard the words, "Ocho Cinco" all day! As I said in my previous post, the game's outcome would be decided by one big thing and that was the pass rush. Well, they made me look good, as the Ravens hounded and put a "Baltimore Beatdown" on Carson Palmer all day. This made the Ravens cornerbacks look like All Pros, although I'm sure it helped to have Ed Reed, Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle healthy and on the field together for the first time in 2008. McAlister had a great game, with an interception and fumble recovery, although it was good to see him not screw it up with a stupid lateral along the way. Don't forget that we also get cornerback Fabian Washington back from his one game suspension next week as well.
All in all, it was a great day all around. The weather was incredible, the fans were loud and proud, and the team started off the season on a winning note. Next week on the road in Houston will not be an easy game, as the Texans were blasted by the Steelers in Pittsburgh and will be angry and glad to be in front of their home crowd. However, this victory makes it a fun week, looking ahead and gives us hope for at least one more week.
Congrats to head coach John Harbaugh on his first NFL victory and kudos to his assistants for having a great gameplan!