Joe Flacco completed 21-of-29 passes for 299 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers as the Baltimore Ravens soared to an easy 44-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in a Monday Night Football special on Sept. 10 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md.

The lopsided win over Cincy marked the fifth straight season-opening victory for Baltimore, all under the direction of fifth-year Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. Here’s how the game played out:

The Ravens sealed the victory over the Bengals when…
Cincinnati’s offense was on the field with backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski taking snaps as the game clock expired for the Baltimore win. The Bengals had put most of their backups in during the final minutes of the game because the Ravens’ lead was simply too far out of reach at that point.

Baltimore had put their backups in the game, too, midway through the final quarter, not long after fifth-year running back Ray Rice scored a short touchdown run to give the Ravens a dominant 28-point lead.

Most Outstanding Player of the Game:
All eyes were on Joe Flacco, a fifth-year starting quarterback who gave notice in front of a national televised audience that he’s ready to prove he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Flacco told the media during the summer offseason that he believes he’s not just one of the best passers in the league, but instead believes he is the very best in the league. He backed up that talk on Monday night with perhaps his best season-opening performance in his young career.

Flacco completed 21-of-29 passes for 299 yards, two touchdowns, zero turnovers, a 128.4 percent passer rating, and he did it while only playing in a little more than three quarters of the game. He was benched in the fourth quarter because the Ravens were so far ahead on the scoreboard that they didn’t need him to play anymore.

Flacco’s very first pass of the game was a 52-yard bomb thrown to second-year speed receiver Torrey Smith; the offense continued to run its no-huddle offense, which kept Cincinnati’s defense tired and on its heels. Flacco went on to connect with veteran receiver Anquan Boldin on a 34-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, and then a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight-end Dennis Pitta later in the third quarter. Flacco hit seven different receivers for passes, including Pitta (five passes for 73 yards), Boldin (four passes for 63 yards), Jacoby Jones (3 catches, 46 yards) and Smith (2 catches, 57 yards).

Unsung Hero of the Game:
While Flacco was finding receivers to throw to, it was the Ravens’ offensive line that blocked and gave him plenty of time to find those open targets down field. One of the Ravens’ offensive line players that impressed the most was rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele, who started his first regular season game. The Bengals had one of the toughest defensive lines last season with a stout pass rush, but Osemele wasn’t fazed when he took on the Bengals Monday night, helping keep Flacco upright throughout most of the game. Osemele and the line gave up only two sacks on the night, and also helped pave some running lanes for Rice, who rushed for 68 yards on 10 carries.

More Games Notes:
– The Ravens’ defense still looks as good as they’ve ever looked throughout the past decade, holding the Bengals to only 13 points, all scored in the first half..
Sixteen-year veteran star linebacker Ray Lewis still managed to play at a high level, even at the age of 37. Lewis led the game with 14 tackles (11 solo), while teammate and fellow future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed also played well. Reed had two pass deflections and also intercepted Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and returned it 34-yards for a touchdown. The pick-6 gave Reed 1,497 career interception return yards, breaking Hall of Famer Rod Woodson’s record for the most in NFL history. The pick-6 play also marked Reed’s seventh interception returned for a touchdown, and 14th touchdown scored in his 10-year career.

“It feels good ,” said Reed, who turned 34-years-old on Sept. 11. “I got my hands on one , actually two, earlier in the game and it’s like you’re talking to yourself, like ‘It’s coming, it’s coming, just be patient.’ That’s what we kept telling each other as a secondary. It feels good.”

– The Ravens recorded 430 total net yards to the Bengals’ 322 yards. Surprisingly, Cincinnati won the time of possession battle with 32 minutes of offensive possession compared to the Ravens’ 28 minutes with the ball. The Ravens made up for it by winning the turnover battle with 2 forced turnovers to the Bengals’ zero forced turnovers.

– Second-year quarterback Andy Dalton didn’t play very well, completing only 22-of-37 passes for zero touchdowns, an interception and a fumble lost. He ended the game with a dismal 65.3 passer rating.

-This was the fifth straight season-opening win for the Ravens, all won with Flacco starting at quarterback. The Ravens had beat another AFC North Division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-7, in last year’s season-opener. Coincidentally, the Ravens beat the Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium during the season-opener of Flacco’s rookie season back in 2008.

The Ravens (1-0 overall) will travel to Philadelphia, Pa. to take on the Eagles (1-0 overall) on Sunday Sept. 16 at 1 p.m.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor