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Ravens Offense Has Big Day After Rusty Opener

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson tosses the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Cincinnati.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson tosses the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Cincinnati.

After being "rusty" in Week 1, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' offense clicked like a well-oiled operation in Week 2.

Jackson upped his record to 5-1 as a starter against the Bengals with a 27-24 victory on Sunday that lifted Baltimore to 2-0 in the young season. The Ravens made great strides in their second game under Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, rushing for 178 yards while Jackson completed 24 of 33 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns.

It was the kind of offensive recipe that the Ravens envisioned when Monken was brought in to spice up their attack. Even with Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) sidelined in the second half, Baltimore's offense kept cooking.

Jackson distributed the ball to Nelson Agholor (five catches, 63 yards, one touchdown), Zay Flowers (four catches, 62 yards) and Mark Andrews (five catches, 45 yards, one touchdown). Gus Edwards (10 carries, 62 yards), Jackson (12 carries, 54 yards) and Justice Hill (11 carries, 41 yards) got things done on the ground.

The Ravens promised they would be sharper in Week 2 following their season-opening 25-9 victory over the Texans. Baltimore had some bright moments offensively in that game, but that performance also featured penalties, inconsistencies, and missed opportunities.

Against the Bengals, Baltimore's offense was clicking in so many ways that Cincinnati simply didn't have enough answers. Jackson felt this game was indicative of what the Ravens should look like, with room still to grow.

"Like I've been saying since camp, the sky's the limit for this team," Jackson said. "Our first game was like a preseason game for us, especially the starters because we hadn't played in a while together. But I felt like today we stepped it up."

The offensive was more impressive because the Ravens were missing two top offensive linemen – Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) and center Tyler Linderbaum (ankle). But Patrick Mekari and Sam Mustipher stepped in seamlessly at left tackle and center, respectively, Jackson wasn't sacked, and Edwards found several massive holes to run through.

"The offensive line played a great football game," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Pass protection was outstanding. Run blocking was outstanding – just all across the board. Pat was a great part of that, and Sam Mustipher stepped in, and he just played tremendously well."

Flowers showed the dynamic element he brings to the offense for the second straight week, most notably on a 52-yard reception that set up Andrews' 3-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. When the Ravens called the same play earlier in the game, Flowers said he was open, but Jackson didn't have enough time to make the throw. When the Ravens went back to that play, Flowers and Jackson recognized they could take advantage of the Bengals' coverage.

"We saw it together," Jackson said. "They went Cover Zero when he was open on a post [route], and I had to get the ball out of my hands, but the [offensive] line did a great job. Just watching film knowing what they were going to do, we had to cross the route and I saw the safety driving on that cross route. Zay, he's going to get away from corners. I just had to give him a chance, and he made a heck of a catch."

Baltimore's final touchdown came on a pinpoint throw from Jackson to Agholor, another new weapon that Jackson is clicking with quickly. Lining up in the slot against Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, Agholor turned that mismatch into a 17-yard touchdown connection. Agholor didn't have much of a step, but Jackson's throw led him perfectly outside and away from the defender.

After the Bengals closed to within three points with 3:28 to play, Baltimore's offense closed the show by making two first downs to run out the clock. Jackson scrambled for 12 yards to pick up one first down, then Edwards delivered the nail by running for five yards on third-and-one with 1:15 left.

The Ravens looked capable of moving the football in many ways, and that's an identity they want to embrace.

"We show a lot of potential," Edwards said. "A lot of guys catching the ball and making plays. We're loaded. We just have to keep building off of that and just keep getting better."

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