The Ravens entertained a capacity crowd of 71,254 at M&T Bank Stadium, cruising to a 29-10 win over the Oakland Raiders with a tricky offense and a relentless performance from Rex Ryan's defense.
Fans saw rookie quarterback Joe Flacco and Co. rack up a season-high 375 total yards by employing a variety of formations and plays in exciting fashion.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had Flacco split out wide while Troy Smith took direct snaps, lined up running back Willis McGahee and fullback Le'Ron McClain as wideouts, and even put defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in at tight end.
Meanwhile, suffocating play from Baltimore's defense smothered Oakland, earning another victory for Ryan over his twin brother, Rob, on the opposite sideline.
The Ravens sacked quarterback JaMarcus Russell the first time he dropped back to pass. The next time, he was taken down for a safety.
And, a team that came into the contest with the NFL's fifth-ranked running attack, could not get anything going on the ground, especially with rookie sensation Darren McFadden inactive because of a toe injury.
The Raiders had only 47 rushing yards in a contest that got out of hand early enough that the Ravens were able to hold off a late comeback attempt.
"It was a great win, and obviously a great team effort," a water-soaked Ryan said after fellow coaches doused him in celebration. "I thought in the first half that we really established ourselves on defense [with a] dominant performance.
"Then in the second half, we really needed our offense to pick us up. That's what this team is all about this year."
Baltimore jumped out to a 19-point lead in the first half and added a late insurance touchdown to seal the outcome.
As a passer, Flacco completed 12 of 24 throws for 140 yards, but his most exciting connection might have been a 43-yard catch from Smith in the third quarter that led to a 30-yard field goal from Matt Stover.
The rookie also hit receiver Demetrius Williams with a 70-yard touchdown bomb in the second quarter.
The defense kicked off the scoring when rookie linebacker Jameel McClain sacked Russell in the end zone on the second pass attempt. It was the most action the undrafted free agent has seen in his professional career.
"I think our scouts did a great job of finding him, first of all," head coach John Harbaugh said of the Syracuse product. "He's a guy that is very versatile, he gets off blocks, and he can make tackles. [He's] a good defensive football player."
McClain was just one of many backups that had to contribute. Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister was inactive, while starters Samari Rolle and Dawan Landry were ruled out earlier in the week.
Still, the Ravens kept Russell in check. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound signal-caller went 15-of-33 for 228 yards and an interception from cornerback Frank Walker. Jim Leonhard filled in at safety and posted two tackles to go along with his 63 yards on four punt returns (15.8-yard average).
And, Fabian Washington posted two passes defensed in his first meeting with the team that benched him last year, even dropping a sure-thing interception at the end of the game.
"I'm going to have nightmares about that one," said Washington, whom the Ravens acquired for a fourth-round draft pick last April. "That would have been a great ending. I could have put all that Raiders stuff behind me, and I already have. It would have been like eating that juicy steak."
The end was within sight by halftime. Following McClain's safety, Baltimore had three second-quarter scoring drives, which began with Leonhard's 46-yard punt return with two minutes left in the opening period.
Five plays later, Willis McGahee rumbled across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown, making it a 9-0 game. McGahee, who gritted out 58 yards on 23 carries, followed two consecutive blocks from the 340-pound Ngata.
Then, Walker ran under a deep Russell attempt at the Ravens' 3-yard line, which ended any chance of an Oakland answer.
Flacco followed that up with his pass to Williams. From his own 30-yard line, the signal-caller stood tall in the pocket, taking a hit as he unleashed a deep ball to Williams, who was free behind the defense.
The 97-yard march was Baltimore's longest of the season.
"I told the O-linemen, that's their touchdown," Flacco said. "They gave me so much time in there, and I think the corner ended up jumping onto Mark Clayton, leaving Demetrius wide open. I was surprised a little bit, but that was a pretty exciting touchdown."
The Ravens forced a three-and-out to get the ball back, and then marched 61 yards en route to a 38-yard field goal with 15 seconds left before halftime. Ray Rice was the prime mover this time. With Flacco split to the left, Rice took a pitch from Smith to add 19 yards on Smith's 2-yard gain to get into Raiders territory.
"So far, Cam has done an incredible job of game-planning," Smith said of Cameron. "He's coming up with different ways to get guys the ball in certain situations. We haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg yet."
If there was a lapse in defensive pressure, it came in the third quarter, when Oakland finally crossed midfield on its first drive after the break. Russell found receiver Chaz Schilens free for 60 yards, setting up a 22-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski.
Still, Cameron simply delved into the playbook for another shocker.
Flacco and Smith both lined up in the backfield. Flacco handed off to Smith, who faked a pass to the right as Flacco sprinted past linebacker Ricky Brown. Smith then unleashed a 43-yard rainbow to Flacco, who lunged for an impressive catch – even for a receiver.
"I ran out there, and saw everybody run to the right," the 6-foot-6 Flacco explained. "No. 57 kind of started to bite that way, and then he ran out with me. I was just hoping Troy was still going to throw it to me even though there was a guy running with me.
"I saw him put it up, and I was like, 'All right, Joe, you've got to go get it now."
Pushed back by holding and illegal formation penalties, the Ravens settled for a 30-yarder by Stover, but it was certainly enough.
The Raiders did close the margin when fullback Justin Griffith reached across the goal line for a score. Oakland head coach Tom Cable, who was promoted two weeks ago after Lane Kiffin was fired, challenged and won when Griffith was originally ruled short of the end zone.
The fourth quarter was series after series of three-and-outs – Oakland didn't even capitalize on a Willis McGahee fumble in Ravens territory – until the Raiders failed to convert on fourth down at their own 20-yard line. Four plays later, Flacco ran a naked bootleg to the right and dove to paydirt.
The Ravens could have scored a touchdown one play earlier, but Rice's 7-yard scoring reception was nullified when offensive tackle Jared Gaither was penalized for being ineligible downfield.
Coming from his own 12, Flacco could then have handed off to Rice, but chose to roll out when he saw open real estate.
"Me and the coaches were the only ones that knew," Flacco said. "I still could have handed off, but they gave me the option, and I said, 'OK, I'm going to take you up on that one."
"We laughed about it," admitted Rice, whose 155 combined yards were a game high. "I saw him get out there, and I was laughing after he didn't give me the ball. He can score all the touchdowns, as long as we're winning."