While Baltimore is known for their running game, which produced 117 yards and three touchdowns, and a stout defense, which held the Bills to just three points on the day, the passing offense stole the show from the outset of the game.
Joe Flacco seemed to knock off the rust he showed last season against the Bills, going 25-for-34 and throwing for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Finishing with a 121.7 passer rating, Flacco showed signs of returning to his Super Bowl MVP-caliber play.
Starting on their own 20 in the first quarter, Flacco threw consecutive strikes to Nick Boyle for a 25-yard and 11-yard gain. After an Alex Lewis holding call set Baltimore back to 2nd and 26, Flacco threw a 29-yard pass to John Brown to dig the Ravens offense out of a hole.
After hitting Mark Andrews for another 11-yard first down, Boyle for another a four-yard pass and a Flacco run up the middle for three yards, the series finished with Alex Collins rushing in for the touchdown. With Flacco’s passing as a catalyst, Baltimore ultimately burned 6:18 off the clock on a successful opening drive to give them a 7-0 lead. He consistently progressed downfield and delivered solid passes to his receivers. He climbed the ladder in the pocket and showed more mobility. In addition, Brown’s ability to get open and catch the ball after the play gave Baltimore a new dynamic.
Not to be lost in the fray was Boyle’s new and improved route-running ability. Known as a blocking tight end, he showed more quickness and agility in the passing game than in the past. The 25-year old finished with three catches for 40 yards (13.3 yards per reception), all of which came on the first drive.
Flacco connected with all three of Baltimore’s free agent receivers for a score in Week 1, and he spoke highly of the new additions.
“I feel really good,” Flacco said of his new receivers. “John [Brown] is a different type of player - just with his speed and what he does to defenders and the relationship he gets with those guys. Crabtree [Michael] has a special way of running routes and getting in position and making big catches. Willie [Snead IV] is an easy guy to get on the same page with - from and early point - just because he does everything so much the right way. He’s been in a good passing offense and he just knows where to be. You have to give a lot of credit to those guys.”
It began with Baltimore’s third offensive drive. With a first and goal, Flacco dropped in a pass to Maxx Williams for a one-yard gain, before throwing an incomplete pass to Brown over the middle. However, the quarterback-receiver duo made up for it on their next play, with Flacco hitting Brown over the middle for a seven-yard touchdown pass.
“They were in zone and I came open in the back,” Brown said of his touchdown catch. “Joe Flacco made a pretty good throw in the back of the endzone.”
Touting a 20-0 lead with just 2:48 remaining in the half, the offense started with the ball back at Baltimore’s 15. Flacco completed a six-yard pass to Crabtree for his first catch as a Raven and would hit him on the next play for a 20-yard gain to take Baltimore into the two-minute warning.
Then with 0:17 seconds remaining, Flacco tossed his second touchdown pass to Crabtree, who tapped danced in the back left portion of the end zone. Though Baltimore failed the two-point conversion attempt, the passing offense was totally in-sync.
“[Joe] Flacco threw it up, I came down with it,” Crabtree said postgame. “ Just making a play. It’s football. You’ve got to make a play. It’s something we practice on, getting those feet down, controlling the ball [and] staying in-bounds.”
In the third quarter, Flacco hit Boyle for a three-yard touchdown pass, but it was nullified by a pass interference call on Snead IV, putting Baltimore back 10 yards. Snead IV immediately made up for his error, catching a pass and going across the middle for a 13-yard touchdown to put Baltimore up 33-0 with Tucker’s PAT.
“Joe [Flacco] wasn’t making me feel too good about that one,” Snead IV said of taking away Boyle’s first career touchdown grab. “I was just trying to do my job and it was just kind of a ticky-tack call, but the next play - I will take advantage of it every time.”
Despite being pulled early in the third quarter to give Jackson some reps, Flacco ended up connecting with eight different players. He hit three receivers (Brown, Crabtree and Snead IV), three tight ends (Boyle, Andrews and Williams) and two of his running backs (Allen and Collins).
The key word of the day for Baltimore’s passing offense: clinical.