In the Ravens first home game on Monday night in 7 years they did not disappoint the home crowd. The offense was running on all cylinders throughout the entire game and Joe Flacco played one of the best games of his career. The new look offense looked unstoppable at times with passes spreading all over the field. Cool Joe showed that he could make any throw and every throw, short, intermediate, and long. The defense looked similar to what fans are use to, and bent but did not break.
The first play from the Ravens offense was a 52 yard bomb from Flacco to Torrey Smith on a play action fake. They ultimately ended up with a field goal from rookie Justin Tucker. They were able to force a 3 and out on the Bengals first drive and then followed with their first TD drive. Ray Rice took that in to make it a 10-0 game. Baltimore scored in the 2nd Quarter on a 34 yard strike to Anquan Boldin on a picture perfect pass. Cincy made it interesting by ending the half on a touchdown drive of their own to make a one score game.
The Bengals started the second half with a drive that ended in a field goal which made it a 17-13 game, but that was as close as it got. Flacco led the Ravens on a 9 play, 89 yard drive that ended on a beautiful fade throw to Dennis Pitta that utilized the Tight Ends 6’5″ frame. The Ravens defense took over from there. Relentless pressure kept Andy Dalton from staying in the pocket. A tipped pass led to an Ed Reed interception that he ended up taking to the house in vintage fashion. It wasn’t all good for Baltimore though, as Reed went to the sideline and was seen having his right leg stretched out. He of course has had hip problems in the past, so he may have aggravated that injury again.
The fourth quarter was dominated by Baltmore’s defense. They didn’t start racking up the sacks until that quarter, but they wore down the line enough to have Dalton running for his life. Haloti Ngata was an unstoppable force and ended up with 2 sacks of his own. It will be interesting to see if Ngata takes on more of a true pass rushing role with Suggs sidelined. Ray Lewis was all over the field, and certainly did look quicker than previous years. He led the Ravens in tackles and ended up with a sack of his own. Pernell McPhee and rookie Courtney Upshaw each had a half of sack, which gave the Ravens a total of four. A lot of people questioned where Baltimore would make up for the loss of Suggs’ sacks, and at least for one game the D showed they were capable of still getting to the quarterback.
The offense was truly impressive. Flacco ended up with 299 yards, and surely would have had more if the Ravens hadn’t led by so much and replaced the starter in the fourth quarter for Tyrod Taylor. Ray Rice played a very interesting role in the offense. He was used much as a decoy to set up the passing game which was not surprising. What was is how badly Cincy bit on it. Every. Time. That won’t last, so hopefully this offense can still operate well when teams don’t bite so hard on the play fake. Rice fell just short of 100 total yards. He rushed for 68 yards on just 10 carries. Typically you would see about double the amount of carries for the feature back.
As for the receiving core, Flacco did an incredible job of spreading the distribution. Torrey had the first deep ball of the game, but had just one catch after that. Jacoby Jones saw most of his targets in the second quarter and ended with 46 yards. Pitta was heavily targeted in the second half and led the Ravens with 73 yards. Boldin was his typical rock solid self with 63 yards and his score. All and all, Flacco hit 8 different receivers without turning over the ball.
There were still some flaws. Flacco got away with a few passes that could have been picked. The Ravens offense left a few drives short that ended up with field goals. Also, BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a pretty good game, rushing for 91 yards on 18 carries. Still, I’m nitpicking after a 44-13 win against a division rival and a playoff team in 2011. Lets just hope Ed Reed is alright (he should be), and the offense continues to click next week when the Ravens head to Philly.