Ravens vs. Bengals: Joe Flacco leads Baltimore to 44-13 opening victory
By Jeff Zrebiec,
They had watched him fit throws into the tightest of spaces and hit receivers in stride 50 yards down the field. They marveled at his calmness and command of the huddle.
So while a “Monday Night Football” national television audience was introduced to a new-look offense and a confident quarterback at the top of his game, the Ravens weren’t the least bit surprised. From the first play from scrimmage, a 52-yard bomb to Torrey Smith, until he gave way to backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor midway through the fourth quarter of a 44-13 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals, Flacco was in complete command.
Flacco completed 21 of 29 passes for 299 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, running back Ray Rice scored two touchdowns and the Ravens scored the game’s final 27 points to improve to 1-0 for the fifth time under Coach John Harbaugh.
The 44 points tied for the third most that the Ravens have scored in a regular season game.
In blowing out the Bengals in front of an announced 71,064 at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens won their 12th straight home game, the longest such streak in the NFL. After sweeping the division en route to the AFC North title, the Ravens have won nine straight games against division foes, also an NFL high.
For a little while, both streaks looked potentially in jeopardy. The Ravens’ once 14-point lead was down to four, and the defense was struggling to contain Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ offense.
But Flacco, with an assist from Rice and tight end Dennis Pitta, put a stop to the Bengals’ comeback bid. He drove the Ravens 89 yards and then hit Pittta, who out-jumped Leon Hall for a 10-yard touchdown reception.
He then engineered another scoring drive that ended with a 40-yard field goal from Justin Tucker. The rookie kicker finished 3 of 3 on field goal attempts and 5 of 5 on extra points.
With his team leading 27-13, safety Ed Reed intercepted Dalton and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens’ defense then did the rest, happily playing a supporting role to Flacco and company.
The debut of the Ravens’ no-huddle offense resulted in 430 yards of total offense.
Despite the 52-yard completion to Smith, the longest season-opening play in team history, the Ravens were forced to settle for a 46-yard field goal from Tucker on their first drive.
But they quickly got the ball back and encountered little resistance.
A 10-yard pass to fullback Vonta Leach and back-to-back completions to Jacoby Jones got the Ravens down to the Cincinnati 29.
On fourth and one at the 20, Flacco rolled out and completed a one-yard pass to Rice, who made a nice adjustment on the play to pick up the first down. After a 12-yard completion to Pitta, Rice followed crushing blocks from Leach, rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele and Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and was virtually untouched on a seven-yard touchdown run.
It was Rice’s 30th career touchdown, passing Derrick Mason and moving into fourth place all time on the Ravens’ touchdown list.
During the 12-play, 63-yard drive, Flacco was 6 of 7 for 49 yards. As it turns out, he was just getting warmed up.
— Baltimore Sun