The Baltimore Ravens might not have unveiled that prolific new offense tonight, but their defense showed why they continue to be one of the top units in the NFL this year, as they completely stifled the New York Jets' offense and held on for a hard fought 10-9 victory. Mistakes limited their scoring chances in the first half but they played efficiently enough on offense the second half to dominate the time of possession clock and keep the Jets' offense off the field.
Holding Jets QB Mark Sanchez to 60 net yards passing, the Ravens were able to stack the box and limit the run enough to force Sanchez to beat them through the air, which he was unable to do. While pass pressure was still an issue, the secondary stepped up and blanketed the Jets receivers and forced them to punt over and over, especially in the second half. The Jets ran 44 total plays, a minuscule amount for a 60 minute NFL game. They had six total first downs all game and their 14 penalties for 125 yards gave the Ravens second and third chances when it looked like they might have held the Ravens and forced them to punt.
Baltimore seemed to have a great strategy going in, knowing that despite his holdout, CB Darrelle Revis would still shut down whomever he was covering. Therefore, they targeted Antonio Cromartie and rookie Kyle Wilson and came up huge with completions or penalties when they needed them the most. At the end of the first half, the most costly penalty of the game was a roughing the kicker on a field goal which was good, and it gave the Ravens new life with a first down and they went on to score the game's only touchdown.
Whenever the Jets offense came on the field , they hurt themselves with penalties and bad plays, with Sanchez looking like the rookie he was last season. Without a run game to open things up, he was unable to find his receivers and kept throwing into the flat for short gains or incompletions. We all knew this would be a low scoring contest and once the Ravens went up by more than a field goal, time began to run out for the Jets. A fourth down completion to second year tight end Dustin Keller should have moved he chains but not realizing he was short of the first down, he stepped out of bounds a foot short, ending New York's chance at a last minute victory.
The Ravens are now 1-0 and continue on the road next week in a key division match-up with the Cincinnati Bengals, who lost yesterday to the New England Patriots 38-24, although that game wasn't nearly as close as those 14 points made it seem. Sweeping the AFC North last year, the Bengals will be an angry bunch but with a victory tonight, the Ravens can enjoy this win on the road in prime time, a rarity for them on national TV. before regrouping to plan for the Bengals.
So for now, let's revel in an opening night victory for the Ravens and plan on moving to 2-0 at Cincinnati before coming home to play the Cleveland Browns in week three.