Bengals vs. Ravens Recap


Another year, another clubbing of a division rival to begin the season.

But this one had a different tone.

Last year, the Ravens defense forced seven turnovers to rout the Steelers.

This season, it was the offense that flexed its muscles on Monday Night Football's national stage with a 44-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens offense has been the talk of the offseason with its no-huddle, hurry-up approach. In its first regular-season display, it justified all the talk.

"It was a lot of fun," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "You can't lie about that."

Flacco – who created plenty of buzz with his preseason play – still looked in total control under center once the bright lights were on. He went 21-for-29 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. That added up to a 128.4 quarterback rating.

Flacco led scoring drives of 51, 63, 82, 89, 53 and 28 yards against a Bengals defense that ranked 10th in the NFL last year. He completed five passes over 20 yards.

Baltimore finished with 430 total offensive yards and its 44 points are tied for the third-most in franchise history. It punted just twice.

"We practiced against this offense all offseason," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "So to see it now, when everything is real, I think you have to take your hat off."

The offense's explosion began from the get-go.

Flacco went bombs away on the very first play from scrimmage, airing it out to wide receiver Torrey Smith, who ran behind Bengals cornerback Leon Hall for a 52-yard gain. It is the longest play to begin a season in Ravens history.

Smith said he had no clue that was going to be the first play.

"I just came out and he called the play," Smith said. "I said, 'OK, I better get on my horse.'"

That set up a 46-yard field goal by rookie kicker Justin Tucker on his first regular-season NFL attempt. Tucker went 3-for-3 on the night, later hitting from 40 and 39 yards.

On their next offensive drive, the Ravens overcame a 10-yard loss on a botched double reverse to wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Then they converted on fourth-and-1 when running back Ray Rice made a one-handed catch reaching back across his body.

Rice punched it into the end zone on a 7-yard run up the middle to put Baltimore up 10-0.

The Pro Bowl running back finished the day with an efficient 10 carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns. He caught three passes for 25 yards. Usually, Rice getting just 13 touches would seem like a recipe for disaster. But the Ravens offense showed it has the weapons to strike in a variety of ways.

"It was really fun for me. I barely got hit tonight," Rice said. "One thing you see with our offense, we're explosive."

The Bengals drove 76 yards on their next drive, aided by two costly Baltimore penalties by defensive end Pernell McPhee, but had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.

Flacco and the Ravens offense fired back.

Flacco threaded the perfect pass over a leaping cornerback's head for a 25-yard gain to receiver Jacoby Jones. Then he lofted a 34-yard pass to Boldin, who was not Flacco's first option. Boldin held on despite taking hits from two Bengals, giving the Ravens a 17-3 lead.

Baltimore's defense couldn't get off the field on the next and final series of the half, however, keeping the game close despite the offense's performance.

The defense wasn't its best as it allowed three consecutive long Bengals drives from the end of the first half and into the second. But it broke just once and bent twice.

The Bengals drove 81 yards on 13 plays to cut the Ravens' lead to 17-10 at halftime on a fourth-down, [comma] 6-yard touchdown run by running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis, who put up 91 yards on 18 carries.

With the ball to start the second half, the Bengals marched 79 yards on 12 plays, but were held back from tying the game. Nugent booted a 19-yard field goal to cut the score to 17-13 in the third quarter.

"We didn't play perfectly as a defense," Lewis said. "But we are working our kinks out just like everyone else is working their kinks out. When it got to where we needed to make plays we made the plays we were supposed to make."

The offense answered – yet again.

Flacco connected with his buddy, tight end Dennis Pitta, three times on a nine-play, 89-yard drive in just three minutes, forty-one seconds.

He got out of the shadow of his own end zone with a 23-yarder to Pitta, then hit Rice up the sideline for 18 more yards. Flacco perfectly read a Cincinnati third-down blitz and lofted a 10-yard jump ball to Pitta for the touchdown to give the Ravens breathing room again at 24-13.

The Ravens went down the field again to push the lead to 27-13 on a Tucker field goal, which put the Bengals in catch-up mode.

The defense took advantage.

Safety Ed Reed picked off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and scampered into the end zone. With the pick, Reed surpassed Hall of Fame safety Rod Woodson for the most interception return yards in NFL history (1,497 yards).

Then Lewis, who looked nimble at his dropped weight and finished with a game-high 14 tackles, forced a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Lardarius Webb. The Ravens turned that into another touchdown on a 1-yard carry by Rice.

"What we did was basically got a lead in the third quarter, and that let us get out there and hunt after Andy Dalton," said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who notched two sacks.

At that point, the rout was on.

The Ravens had done enough that they could afford to bring in their second-stringers midway through the fourth quarter.

By the end, the Ravens could walk away from their Week 1 performance having done former Owner Art Modell proud with an impressive 1-0 start to the season.

"We wanted to win this one for Art," Rice said. "That didn't have to be said in one of our meetings."

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