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Flashback: Harbaugh, Flacco Get First Wins vs. Bengals

Posted Dec 29, 2012

The rookie quarterback and rookie head coach won their NFL debuts over Cincinnati, 17-10.

A new era had begun in Baltimore with a lot of new faces. There was a new head coach – John Harbaugh. A new quarterback, first-round draft pick Joe Flacco, was now under center. Fans didn’t really know what to expect, but they turned out to M&T Bank Stadium with a lot of anticipation.

The main stalwarts of the defense – Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Chris McAlister and Terrell Suggs – still intimidated opponents on defense. However, there was a change in the offense under the new regime. Baltimore’s top two picks in the 2008 NFL Draft were Flacco and running back Ray Rice. The man calling the shots was new as well. John Harbaugh brought a new attitude and style to Baltimore. Following a disappointing 2007 season, Harbaugh was chosen as the man to lead the Ravens’ next era.

After winning the division in 2005, the Bengals had fallen back into mediocrity. An 8-8 season followed up by a 7-9 campaign made for a tense 2008 season in Cincinnati. The offense was still explosive and led by Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer. Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were his main weapons on the outside, each coming off 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

Opening day of the NFL season is always special and filled with optimism. This game was no different. The win was a typical Ravens win – gritty and hard-nosed. A 17-10 final doesn’t sound like much, but a new team with a new mindset had started their new journey.

Stat of the game

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer’s 32.3 quarterback rating. Palmer was 9-of-24 for 94 yards and one interception. Additionally, he was sacked twice and harassed all afternoon. Baltimore’s defense did not allow a touchdown.

Player of the game

Flacco, who was a modest 15-of-29 for 129 yards in his debut, but added an electrifying 38-yard touchdown run, and threw a key downfield block on Mark Clayton’s 42-yard touchdown run.

Play of the game

Flacco’s 38-yard touchdown scramble. Clinging to a 10-3 lead late in the third quarter, Flacco ran a naked bootleg and had nothing but open field ahead of him. After making a defender miss and getting a downfield block from Clayton, Flacco dove into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.

Quote of the week

Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg on Harbaugh’s leadership style: “Coach Harbaugh is his own man, I would say that. But Coach Harbaugh has drawn from a lot of different people and a lot of different sources to develop his own style. I think the most important thing about Coach Harbaugh is that he’s John Harbaugh. He’s an everyman, but at the same time he’s a leader. He’s a very down-to-earth and – I say this complimentary – common, easy-to-relate-to leader. Sometimes that’s difficult for people to do both. In my view, John has mastered the ability to communicate with everybody in the building and everybody on the team, and at the same time stand in front and tell everybody exactly what they need to do. It’s a special talent that he has.”

What it meant

The win was the first of 11 regular-season wins for the Ravens in 2008. Once they made the playoffs, they went to Miami and knocked off the Dolphins in the wild-card round. A trip to Tennessee against the Titans in the divisional round followed, and Baltimore won that as well. The remarkable season would eventually come to a halt in the AFC championship game against their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. With 13 total victories during the 2008 campaign, Harbaugh and Flacco set an NFL record for most victories by a rookie head coach with a rookie quarterback.

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