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Many people were wondering whether the heartbreaking AFC Championship loss to the New England Patriots last season would leave the Baltimore Ravens more fired up than ever this season, or facing a hangover. This question was answered emphatically as the new-looking Ravens blew away the Cincinnati Bengals in their home opener, 44-13, on Monday night with the rest of the nation looking on.
Baltimore got off to perfect start, scoring on all three of their first drives. The first drive ended in a first NFL field goal for rookie kicker, Justin Tucker, following a 52-yard pass to Torrey Smith off of the very first snap of the game.
It was then the Ravens’ defense turn to step up and they forced a three and out on Cincinnati’s first drive. This gave Baltimore excellent field position and the new no-huddle offense shone, moving the ball quickly back towards the Bengals’ end zone. Running back, Ray Rice, then began to justify his new contract by punching it in to give his side a 10-0 lead.
The Bengals pulled back three points of their own with a field goal early in the second quarter, but they were soon facing an even bigger deficit. Quarterback, Joe Flacco, was in impressive form and took his team on another long drive, regularly finding receivers with pinpoint passes. He finished off the drive by finding Anquan Boldin for a 34-yard touchdown pass and firmly putting Baltimore in the driving seat.
Cincinnati was able to strike back before the half, as BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed his way to a 6-yard touchdown, leaving the Bengals trailing 17-10 heading into the third quarter. Head Coach, Marvin Lewis, was pleased with his sides’ drive down the field, which involved a couple of fourth down conversions and generally showed a fluency that had been lacking early on in the game.
Questions about the proficiency of the Baltimore pass rush were raised early in the third quarter when quarterback, Andy Dalton, lead his team comfortably down the field for another field goal to bring his side to within four points of the Ravens.
Fortunately for Baltimore, their offense continued it’s great start to the game, scoring on consecutive drives, the first a Dennis Pitta touchdown, followed shortly by another field goal from Tucker.
It was almost as if the defense recognized they were being outshone and came up with two impressive plays of their own on either side of the end of the third quarter. Ed Reed was the first to step up, picking off Dalton and returning the football for a 34-yard touchdown, a score which moved Reed to the top of the all-time interception return yardage table, having now put up 1,497 yards. The beginning of the fourth quarter rolled around and it was now time for the other defensive talisman of the Ravens to take the spotlight as Ray Lewis forced a fumble on Dalton that was quickly recovered by Lardarius Webb.
Another rushing touchdown for Rice and a field goal for Tucker left the score at 44-13 to Baltimore, and the Ravens brought in their reserves for the final nine minutes, who were able to comfortably see the game out.
Cincinnati will now have to wait until the last game of the regular season to get a shot at avenging this humbling score, but they will be eager to record their first win of the season against the Cleveland Browns next week.
Head Coach, John Harbaugh, has been thrilled with the Raven’s season opener, as they shone in the new no-huddle offense. Flacco put up great numbers (21/29, 299 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT) and Rice looked dangerous whenever he got the ball (10 carries, 68 yards, 2 TDs). The chemistry Flacco had with his receivers was also apparent, completing multiple passes to seven different receivers.
One cause for concern may be the lack of a consistent pass rush threat, despite Haloti Ngata picking up two sacks, and it will be something defensive coordinator, Dean Pees, will want to work on before their game against the Philadelphia Eagles next week.