The Ravens pass rush was obvious to Miami Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen.
With three sacks and 12 quarterback hits Sunday, the Ravens took the first step toward answering the most commonly asked question about their defense. Can they establish a consistent pass rush?
That was not a problem in Week 1 as Matthew Judon, Patrick Onwuasor and Pernell McPhee each had a sack, while eight different players had at least one quarterback hit. That didn't include Tim Williams, who did not show up on the stat sheet despite being in Miami's backfield much of the day.
Jumping to a 21-0 first quarter lead certainly helped the pass rush, forcing the Dolphins to become one-dimensional. However, Head Coach John Harbaugh was pleased to see so many different players having a chance to sack the quarterback.
"It was a group effort," Harbaugh said. "I thought we had a lot of good individual rushes. I'm really happy with it. We got a lot of pressure.
"Ryan Fitzpatrick is a really good quarterback and he deserves a lot of credit. He evaded the rush numerous times and made plays. The plays that they had on offense was him making them. He made some Fitz-magic throws out there that was just really worthy of respect. I wish we had gotten him down a few more times when we had him back there. We brought the rush really hard and I was pleased with it."
Harbaugh said the improved play of Williams and Bowser at outside linebacker carried over from preseason into the regular season.
"He's not just rushing hard, he's playing hard," Harbaugh said of Williams. "He's been playing hard against the run too, he's been running to the ball. He's done well. Tyus caused a couple of penalties as well. I'm sure those two guys would like to have the sacks. They both had good games."
Offensive Line Plays Well With Bozeman Starting at Left Guard
As the Week 1 starter at left guard, Bradley Bozeman was under the microscope after the starting job remained up for grabs throughout the preseason.
The second-year player from Alabama rose to the occasion Sunday, as did the entire offensive line. Lamar Jackson was sacked just once while throwing five touchdowns passes, and running back Mark Ingram II ran through some well-blocked holes during his 107-yard performance.
The offensive line set the tone on the game's first play, springing Ingram for a 49-yard gain.
Asked to describe the performance of Bozeman and the offensive line, Harbaugh said, "Excellent, excellent. Not without areas that we can improve, for sure. But they were physical, they kept the pads up for the most part. Technique in both the run blocking and pass blocking was good. We really picked up almost all their pressures every time, and they brought a lot of pressure. Bradley played really well and justified the fact that he was in there as a starter."
Harbaugh's Not Feeling Sentimental as Terrell Suggs Returns
Terrell Suggs, the Ravens all-time sack leader, will return to M&T Bank Stadium Sunday as a member of the Arizona Cardinals after 16 years in Baltimore. When Harbaugh began as the Ravens head coach in 2008, Suggs was already an established star.
Starting a season without Suggs in the lineup has been different for all the Ravens who know him well, but Harbaugh said this wasn't the right time to feel sentimental about Suggs' return.
"He's been playing really well," Harbaugh said. "As far as that part of it, the emotional part of it, I'm not going to worry about that. Maybe it will for some people and some fans and stuff, maybe some players will feel that way. I won't. It'd be great to see him before the game and hug him and all that, if I happen to see him. Hope we do. Once the game starts, he's a Cardinal, and we'll be looking to do the best we can against him.
"I'm not nostalgic about it right now. It is outside of the game, but it's the game that matters right now. And that's what we'll be thinking about. That's what I'll be thinking about, and I'm pretty sure the players feel the same way."
Wearing No. 56 now, Suggs had five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble during Arizona's 27-27 tie against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
There's no doubt Suggs would love to make a statement Sunday, showing he can still impact a game at age 36 in his 17th NFL season.
"He's playing really well," Harbaugh said. "He's a game-wrecker. And that's how we treat him. He's in great shape, I can tell you that."
Harbaugh Further Explains Ravens' Fake Punt
The Ravens drew some attention for running a fake punt in the second quarter of Sunday's game, already leading 35-3. The play was a huge success, with Anthony Levine Sr. taking a direct snap and racing 60 yards to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Ingram.
Why call the fake in that situation, with a 32-point lead? It was only the second quarter, and the Ravens didn't want to give Miami the ball back with a chance to score before halftime. After looking at the Dolphins' defensive alignment, the Ravens felt strongly the fake would work.
"We've had a fake punt run with 35-plus on us, and we've had two passing touchdowns scored on us in the last six minutes of a blowout," Harbaugh said. "That's the NFL for one thing, but the point is – and I know that the Dolphins understand this – is that the objective, especially in the second quarter, is to keep your offense on the field and to keep your defense off the field by any means necessary. We're not looking for more snaps for our defense. We're always trying to do that. And we knew we were going for that fourth down once it got to fourth-and-close-to-1, and so, now you look for the best play. We felt like the fake punt was the best play, so that's why we did it."
First-year Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores talked about the play after the game.
"It's our job to stop them. Those are my thoughts," Flores said. "It's not their job to let off. So it's our job to stop them. John is a good coach. They've got a good team. It's our job to stop them. I'm not looking for handouts here."