The 2012 season began at M&T Bank Stadium much the same way it ended in the preseason for the Baltimore Ravens, gaining 430 yards of total offense throttling the Cincinnati Bengals 44-13 in front of 71,064 fans.
After displaying a no-huddle offense that quarterback Joe Flacco seemed extremely comfortable with in the last preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Ravens did much of the same against the Bengals with great effectiveness.
First, prior to the game, the Ravens carried the memory of former owner Art Modell with them in an emotional pregame moment of silence and “ART” on their helmets after Modell passed away on September 6th.
What happened afterward was total domination on the field.
What can be said about Joe Flacco that hasn’t already been said? It was child’s play for Flacco as he picked apart the Bengals defense with ease. The no-huddle usage was the key in this one and should be for a majority of the season.
Flacco’s poise in the pocket stood out to me. Joe got into a good rythym and kept the Bengal defense out of sorts for most of the game. He showed great touch on the beautiful pass in the endzone to Dennis Pitta for the touchdown. He found new Raven Jacoby Jones for a 16 yard catch-and-run on a third-and-15. Anquan Boldin hauled in (and didn’t completely control) a beautiful pass from Flacco in between two Bengal defenders. It was that kind of night.
Building on his performance in last year’s AFC Championship game, it was a coming out party of sorts for Flacco. He made the statement from the jump that he deserves to be in the elite QB talk.
Running Backs: B+
Ray Rice averaged nearly seven yards per carry tonight. That’s pretty solid. He only ran the ball 10 times in the game, but he didn’t have to do much with Flacco rolling. Rice finished with 68 yards rushing and two scores while catching three balls for 25 yards. He was very decisive in the hole and ran with authority. Vonta Leach was his usual force to be reckon with, creating those holes for Rice to run in.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A
Torrey Smith made an immediate statement that he too might be ready for super stardom. On the first play of the game, he hauled in a 52-yard reception on a play-action pass from Flacco. Both he and Jacoby Jones (3 catches for 46 yards) gave the Bengals secondary trouble down field, opening up the middle for Flacco’s go-to guys; Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Both tight ends, returning from injuries, combined for seven catches and 95 yards.
Ravens could potentially have a good situation going. If you try to cover over the top with the speedy receivers, Anquan Boldin can carve you up from sideline to sideline and underneath.
Offensive Line: A
Let the youth movement begin. Insert third-year reserve Ramon Harewood at left guard, a position he had never played at in a regular season game, and he excelled. Rookie Kelechi Osemele started at right tackle and not Bryant McKinnie. The new-look line struggled at times in the first half, but kept their quarterback upright in the second half.
The line really did a nice job of offsetting the Bengals pass rush, or lack thereof. It was pretty non-existent.
Defensive Line: C-
The Bengals offensive line and run game had their way with this unit in the first half. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees showed a lot of looks for the defensive front but after the Bengals fell behind, they caught a break. Haloti Ngata looked strong, recording two sacks out of the gate to start the season.
With the amount of big bodies and athleticism on the line with guys like Pernell McPhee and Terrence Cody, you would think the line had their way. Disappointing show from them. Maybe they’re still getting the finite wrinkles down in Pees’ system? Opposing teams will look to attack this group early and often.
The Ravens will really miss Terrell Suggs and maybe even to an extent, Jarret Johnson. The team bought into the youth movement here as well and after the first game, it left with mixed results.
Ray Lewis led all defenders with 10 tackles and a forced fumble, but the Bengals found spots in the middle to attack the linebackers. New starters Albert McClellan and Paul Kruger combined for three tackles and not much else. Rookie Courtney Upshaw recorded two tackles and a half sack, the first of his career.
Bernard Pollard was in hunt mode all night, seemingly around the football. Good to see his strong play continue. Ed Reed picked off Andy Dalton late in the game and returned it for a touchdown, the seventh of his Hall of Fame career, becoming the all-time leader in interception return yards with 1,497, breaking the previous record held by former Raven Rod Woodson (1,483 yards). Lardarius Webb played well against Bengals star receiver A.J. Green but Cary Williams struggled yet again. The corners were getting pushed around by a bunch of no-namers on the Cincinnati side.
Special Teams: B-
Rookie kicker Justin Tucker converted all three of his field goals and showed good leg on his kickoffs. The theme, however, continued on special teams involving kick off and punt returns. Still way too much being allowed here, 21.3 yard average on three kickoffs. That’s too much.
What a brilliant job designing the offensive game plan. The Ravens did well at keeping Cincinnati off balance all night. Defensively, Dean Pees has to get something out of his guys to get more of a pass rush, the sacks were more coverage based bringing safeties off the corners. Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 91 yards and a score and ran relatively easy. Gotta change that up.
The Ravens head to Philadelphia next week to take on the Eagles. It will be interesting to see what the Eagles do defensively to try and slow the Ravens and their no-huddle offense. One thing is for sure, they’re a force to be reckon with, having weapons all over the field.
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