Seats on the Ravens’ offensive bandwagon are filling up fast. Better hop on board now.
After an offseason filled with hype, Joe Flacco and his new wide receivers kicked off the regular season with a bang in a 47-3 win Sunday. Not even a steady rain at M&T Bank Stadium could dampen this hot offense.
The Ravens built steady momentum over the past four months, sparking hope in free agency, and the draft, lighting up practices and then the preseason. They were all excited to see if they could transfer it to a game.
When rain was in the forecast, the Ravens stayed the course. They didn't change the game plan at all, Flacco said. The train kept rolling.
“They did well,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said of his revamped unit. “I mean, obviously, you can’t hope for much more than that.”
The performance was so good that rookie first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson replaced Flacco five minutes into the second half with the Ravens holding a commanding 40-0 lead. Flacco had already done his damage.
As Flacco stood on the sideline chatting with guard Marshal Yanda, his final stats were shown on the M&T Bank Stadium video boards: 25-of-34 for 236 yards, three touchdowns and a 121.7 rating.
Ravens fans still braving the weather gave Flacco a throaty cheer. The quarterback looked up, smirked and shared a laugh with Yanda. They couldn’t have drawn the debut up (hardly) any better.
“If we scored 25 points and still won, it’s the same outcome,” Flacco said. “But there’s something to be said about going out there and playing the way we did today, just for how we feel as players. That can take you to another level.”
All three of the Ravens’ new free-agent wide receivers scored a touchdown. John Brown got the first and finished with 44 receiving yards. Michael Crabtree muscled down the second and had 38 receiving yards. Willie Snead IV grabbed the third and had a team-high 49 yards.
They each did exactly what the Ravens signed them to do. Brown used his speed and route-running to get wide open on several occasions. Crabtree used his red-zone dominance to make a highlight-reel catch in the corner. Snead worked the middle of the field, moved the chains and made tough grabs.
“I feel really good [with them]. I’ve said it all along,” Flacco said. “John is a different type of player, just with his speed and what he does to defenders. Crabtree has a special way of running routes and getting in position and making big catches. Willie is an easy guy to get on the same page with. … You have to give a lot of credit to those guys.”
The difference between this season and last, when Flacco was still hobbled by a back injury and had next to zero chemistry with his targets, was easily apparent at the start.
On the first offensive snap of the year, Flacco stepped forward to allude pressure and dumped a pass to tight end Nick Boyle for a 25-yard gain. Facing a 2nd-and-26 after a botched handoff and penalty, Flacco rolled to his right and found Brown wide open deep to move the chains. Flacco called it a “huge play.”
“Without that, I don't know if we would've set the tone in quite the same way," Flacco said.
Running back Alex Collins capped the Ravens’ first drive of the season with an 8-yard touchdown run. It went 80 yards in 10 plays – textbook. The Ravens kept the momentum rolling from there.
“I think the first drive was really important for us,” Flacco said. “I think it showed a little bit of what everybody can do.”
Baltimore put up another touchdown on their third drive, capped by Brown’s first touchdown as a Raven when he slipped through zone coverage and found a soft spot in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard score. Brown scored three touchdowns all last season in Arizona.
“I’m satisfied, and I did pretty good, but it doesn’t stop right here,” Brown said.
Crabtree’s touchdown had to be one of the best in the NFL in Week 1, as he basket caught a high looping pass and drug his feet in the back of the end zone. It was reminiscent of the plays Anquan Boldin, who was on hand to watch as the Ravens’ “Legend of the Game,” made back in 2012.
One of the NFL’s leading red-zone threats with the Oakland Raiders (25 touchdowns over the past three seasons), it showed that Crabtree should be the big-bodied touchdown-maker the Ravens’ passing attack has sorely lacked since Boldin’s departure.
“It’s football. You’ve got to make a play,” Crabtree said. “All three receivers getting a touchdown, that’s something we strive for and something we’ve been showing in practice every day. So, I mean, it’s really just showing the world.”
Snead finished off the trifecta with a 13-yard touchdown over the middle in which he had to power through a couple hits to stretch into the end zone.
With Hayden Hurst out (foot), the Ravens especially now need someone to work the seam, and Snead proved up to the task. It was a great start after Snead had eight catches for 92 yards and zero touchdowns last season with the New Orleans Saints.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Snead said. “We’ve all been working hard to get the most of our opportunity. At the end of the day, everybody eats. That’s our goal is to just keep putting the pressure on them. We have a great defense, so if we keep putting up points, that keeps putting pressure on them.”
What pleased Harbaugh and Flacco most, however, may have been that so many different players got involved in the action. For the first time in team history, six different players scored touchdowns.
Nine different receivers caught a pass. Despite 47 points, no receiver reached 50 yards and Javorius Allen led the team with five catches.
Collins, Allen and Kenneth Dixon each scored touchdowns. The Ravens didn’t get a ton of yardage from their ground game (117 yards overall), as Collins had seven rushes for 13 yards, which was a bit surprising given the weather, but it didn’t matter.
Flacco said the Ravens didn’t deviate from their game plan even when the forecast called for rain throughout. With a much-improved passing offense, they aggressively took to the air.
“It was raining, we still threw the ball. We didn’t just run the ball,” Crabtree said. “We did everything we wanted to do.”
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