Bengals Offense Had Shortcomings, But Don't Sell Ravens Defense Short
Look, you can never read too much into Week 1 results.
So it's fair to wonder whether the Ravens defense is really as good as its 20-0 shutout of the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday suggests or if the Bengals offense is really that bad.
As WNST's Luke Jones said, season-opening results can be "fool's gold" and even the New England Patriots lost in Week 1 three times before putting on a Super Bowl championship campaign.
The answer may be somewhere in the middle, but as much as the defense opened eyes with its dominant performance, some media members are blaming it all on how poorly quarterback Andy Dalton played. Remember Sporting News' David Steele saying the Bengals are so bad that he thinks they could get the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft?
I'm not ready to go there yet, and agree with Jones:
"Simply put, trying to make the final outcome all about the shortcomings of Andy Dalton and the Bengals sells the Ravens short for their sensational defensive work that included five sacks and five takeaways," he wrote.
Jones pointed out that the Ravens started out with an 3-0 record last year, only to hit a slump later in the season and ultimately finished 8-8. As a result, they fell short of a playoff appearance for the third time in four years.
Still, you have to look at how those wins came about. The largest margin of victory in those three games was by six points. The next four losses were all squeakers too. You could go back a couple seasons, and a blowout win has been a rare thing for Baltimore.
Baltimore didn't just avenge its six losses in the previous seven meetings to the Bengals, the Ravens clobbered Cincinnati.
"Sunday's victory over the Bengals brought a different feeling, the kind that tempts observers to want to rethink their expectations for the new season," wrote Jones. "We just haven't seen the Ravens overwhelm any opponent like that on the road in quite some time.
"It could all prove to be fool's gold, but perhaps the Ravens defense can be really special while the offense improves over the course of the season. Or maybe the Bengals are just that bad. Or it's some of both. Only time will tell, but Sunday brought a feeling not experienced in these parts in quite some time. And you can't blame Ravens fans for hoping it signals a return to being a serious contender after recent years of mediocrity."
Seeing as the Cleveland Browns haven't won a playoff game since 1994, if the Ravens defense turns in another dominant performance against rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, don't be surprised if people still aren't ready to be "all in" on the Ravens defense.
Ravens Have Won All Five Games When Joe Flacco Has Completed 10 Passes or Less
With a 17-0 halftime lead Sunday, the Ravens had the luxury of running, running and more running to milk the clock and seal the win.
As a result, quarterback Joe Flacco finished with his fewest completions (nine) and attempts (17) for a full regular-season game. It was the first time in six years that a team won without completing a pass after halftime, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
After the game, Flacco joked that he didn't have much fun, but was happy to get the win.
"While Flacco didn't enjoy all the play-calling, this was probably the optimal game for a quarterback who only returned to practice from a back injury eight days before the opener," wrote ESPN.
It was also optimal in getting the win. Per ESPN, Flacco has completed a pass 10 times or less in just five full regular-season games, and Baltimore was victorious in all.
vs. New Orleans
vs. New York Jets
"Flacco acknowledged that he missed some throws," ESPN wrote. "He threw a couple of passes that were nearly intercepted. He also let the time run out on the clock twice in the fourth quarter for delay of game penalties. Still, Flacco delivered a winning performance, despite being sidelined 36 straight days this summer."
Flacco (and His Back) Doesn't Hate That Myles Garrett Won't Play
No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett isn't expected to play in the Ravens' home-opener at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday because of a high-ankle sprain.
I doubt Flacco (and his back) is complaining.
"It's feeling better, and I'll just be back as soon as possible," Garrett said, per The Cleveland Plain Dealers' Mary Kay Cabot.
"But when I come back I'm going to be a boost to my defense,'' he said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to make a difference."
Nobody's doubting that.
The Cleveland Browns only hit Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger once last week, a sack by second-year player Carl Nassib.
Flacco took more than one hit last week, including a brutal blow from defensive end Carlos Dunlap that sent Flacco to the medical tent to be tested for a concussion. He passed, but the play was enough to make onlookers cringe.
As the Ravens look to keep Flacco cleaner when he drops back to pass this week, it certainly helps to know Garrett won't be breathing down his neck.
**Rapoport: Woodhead Could Be Out a Couple Weeks
Harbaugh didn't have an update Monday evening on the health statuses of running back Danny Woodhead (hamstring) and outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith (knee/ankle).
"We're just going to have to see what the timeline for that is going to be after he gets his MRIs and different things like that," Harbaugh said.
According to NFL Insider Ian Rapoport in the video to the right, Woodhead could be sidelined for a couple weeks.
As for Smith, he seemed to grab at his left leg after tackling Bengals running back Giovani Bernard, but it's unclear whether he hurt his knee or ankle. The Ravens originally announced a knee sprain Sunday.
"I haven't heard about Za'Darius in detail," Harbaugh said. "He hasn't had the MRI yet. I know it's not a structural thing. Well, we think we know that. But we'll know for sure when he gets out of the MRI."