At First Glance: Bengals vs. Ravens


John Eisenberg: The Ravens couldn't have asked for a better season opener. Casual fans across the country who tuned in to Monday Night Football may not have recognized them as they buried the Bengals with an up-tempo offensive avalanche. Why weren't they playing smash-mouth ball with their defense and running game, like they always do? But it's a new season and a new era in Baltimore. If this game is any measure, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and the offense are going to put up enough points to win most games with their no-huddle attack, and then everyone will just hope the defense makes enough stops. It's going to be a winning formula if Ray Lewis (11 unassisted tackles) and Ed Reed (interception return for a touchdown) keep playing like this.

Ryan Mink:  This offense is so legit it's scary. The Ravens marched up and down the field on the Bengals, which I would like to remind you had the 10th-ranked defense in the NFL last year. Joe Flacco looks like he's ending the whole "elite" debate. He's arrived. I know it's only Week 1, but Flacco showed it all preseason too. The defense was shaky at times, looking susceptible via the run and pass. But the offense kept pushing ahead despite its troubles, which then seemed to galvanize the defensive unit and led to two turnovers. The second half is what happens when both ends come together – a blowout.

Garrett Downing: What a start. So much was made of the Ravens' no-huddle offense coming into this game, and the group didn't disappoint. Quarterback Joe Flacco was on target the entire night and he had the offense rolling during this victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Flacco spread the ball around to seven different targets and the offense appeared to move the ball with relative ease.  He finished 21-of-29 passing for 299 yards and two touchdowns in front of a national-television audience, which will certainly make him a talking point across the country this week. The Ravens defense gave up some yardage, but came up with big plays and stops when needed. Special teams was also a strong point tonight, as rookie Justin Tucker drilled field goals of 46, 40 and 39 yards, and the coverage units played well.  Overall, this is the kind of performance you want across the board on opening weekend, and the Ravens now have sole possession of first place in the AFC North.

Sarah Ellison:  This is Joe Flacco's world and we're just living in it. It was just one game so you have to tame the excitement, but holy moly he couldn't have made a bigger statement in front of a national crowd. This is his offense, he's in complete control.  And the icing on the cake is that the dynamic passing attack didn't mean less production for running back Ray Rice. It seemed the offense struggled to find the right passing-running balance at times last season. The defense got off to a slow start, but by the second half, the unit was creating turnovers (Ed Reed got a pick 6 to become the all-time interception return yards leader) and then the pass rush came alive with Haloti Ngata leading the way. Many of the starters were spelled with about seven minutes left in the game – that about sums up the rout. And with that, Baltimore stands atop the AFC North after just one game. There's still a long way to go, but the 2012 season couldn't have started much better.

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