Running back Ray Rice needed only one carry to show what the second-round draft pick can bring Baltimore.
Facing the Minnesota Vikings, Rice took his first handoff and took one step to the left before cutting sharply to the right as center Jason Brown and right guard Marshal Yanda sealed their blocks to the middle. A split-second later, Rice popped off a 42-yard run to move the offense deep within enemy territory.
Even though the Ravens were missing Pro Bowl running back Willis McGahee, who recently had arthroscopic surgery on his knee, Rice kept the ground game moving by totaling 77 yards on only eight attempts.
"When you get in that huddle, you're the starter and you have to play like you're the starter," Rice said in the post-game locker room. "You have to come out there and do the best you can to put the team in the position to score."
The Ravens did just that five plays later, as Rice punched the ball across the goal line from 6 yards out. The touchdown run also marked the first and only points Baltimore's offense posted all night.
While Rice knows that he won't be the starter once McGahee comes back, he is quickly building credibility with his more veteran teammates.
"Ray Rice is an incredible tailback in this league, and he is going to put his mark down," said quarterback Troy Smith. "He is obviously a guy who can work hard and continue to be positive.
"He is going to start enjoying the fruits of his labor."
The two-time All-American back from Rutgers had a contingent of supporters in the M&T Bank Stadium crowd to enjoy his hard work, as well.
A big part of the Rice clan made the trek down from his hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y. to catch his first home showcase, including his mother, Janet, with whom the running back professes a close relationship.
"This is my first time playing in front of the Ravens fans, and I knew they were going to support me," Rice said. "My family came in for the big game, so there were a lot of things going for me this game.
"It's always great to see my mom out there. She'd my biggest fan. Getting that touchdown at home and with my family meant a lot to me too."
Landry Leads the Team
With safety Ed Reed out due to a nagging shoulder injury, and Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister also sitting out, Dawan Landry was the elder statesman in Baltimore's secondary.
Landry responded by leading the team with six tackles and one tackle for a loss. Entering his third season, Landry has matured into one of the leaders of the Ravens' defense, and it showed Saturday night.
"I was just around the ball," Landry said. "I was close to the ball. When the plays came my way, I just made the plays."
Landry teamed with free agent signee Jim Leonhard for the first-string back end. The Ravens also had new additions Frank Walker and Fabian Washington at the corner spots.
The unfamiliarity that comes from so many substituted parts showed on the Vikings' first touchdown, a 23-yard pass from quarterback Tavaris Jackson to a wide-open Martin Nance in the back of the end zone.
Nance got behind Washington, who thought Landry would be giving help over the top, but a miscommunication caused Washington to pull up short and allow Nance free reign to paydirt.
"Secondary-wise, we just need to focus on our communication," Landry said. "Those guys - we gave them two touchdowns, one in the first quarter on miscommunication."
The Ravens missed tight ends Todd Heap (calf), Daniel Wilcox (foot) and Aaron Walker (knee); defensive tackles Kelly Gregg (knee) and Kelly Talavou (shoulder); wideouts Demetrius Williams (leg) and Patrick Carter (shoulder); cornerbacks Samari Rolle (leg) and Chris McAlister (knee); offensive tackles Adam Terry (ankle) and Jared Gaither (aknle); and linebackers Terrell Suggs (holdout) and Dan Cody (foot); and safety Ed Reed (shoulder).