The Baltimore Ravens dominated their first game on Sept. 13 against the Cleveland Browns for a 38-6 win. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO
In a fairly unusual NFL season opener between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, quarterback Lamar Jackson fueled his team’s high-caliber offense en route to a dominating victory.
The reigning 2019 MVP completed 20 of 25 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for a team-high 45 yards on seven carries to lead the Ravens (1-0) to a sizable 38-6 win over the Browns at an empty M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 13.
Also, rookie running back J.K. Dobbins finished with two touchdowns on 22 yards rushing and tight end Mark Andrews recorded five receptions for 58 yards to score two touchdowns as Baltimore appeared to be picking up where it left off last season.
“Really proud of our guys, proud of our team, proud of the team effort to open the season,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after the win.
“Lamar Jackson just played a phenomenal game. He just played a top-level game in every single way and I think he was probably the biggest difference in the game.”
Cleveland received the kickoff to begin the game and seemed to be making progress on its opening drive until quarterback Baker Mayfield threw an interception to Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey with 12:26 minutes remaining in the first.
After forcing the early turnover, the Ravens took over at the Browns’ 49-yard line. Running back Mark Ingram rushed the ball a few times to put the Ravens on the 35, then Jackson tossed a 12-yard pass to Devin Duvernay that put them in scoring range.
Baltimore’s first possession ended with a Jackson short five-yard pass to Andrews to make the score 7-0 with 7:41 remaining in the first.
Four plays later, Cleveland turned the ball over again, this time on a fumble, that set up a Baltimore field goal on the other end of the field. Justin Tucker kicked a 41-yarder that gave Baltimore a 10-0 lead.
Cleveland running back Kareem Hunt had a 22-yard scramble that set up a one-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to David Njoku that brought the score to 10-6 heading into the second quarter. But unfortunately for the Browns, the extra point attempt failed and they wouldn’t score for the rest of the afternoon.
As part of a 99-yard drive capped off with a three-yard scoring run by Dobbins, Jackson completed five passes that got the Ravens upfield over a span of nearly six minutes. After Jackson pitched a 16-yard pass to Willie Snead IV, Dobbins ran the ball into the end zone from the 3-yard line that created a 17-6 lead with just under three minutes remaining in the second.
The second half didn’t see as much action as the first, but Baltimore held it down defensively to stay in control of the game.
Defensively, rookie linebacker Patrick Queen led the way with eight tackles, a sack and a forced fumble to help Baltimore seal the big win.
Baltimore’s lead blossomed to 31-6 after Jackson floated a 19-yard pass to Snead with 7:48 remaining in the third. Neither team scored for the remainder of the quarter.
A fumble by Chubb at the end of the third placed Baltimore back in scoring position to start the last quarter. The Ravens concluded a superb afternoon on a two-yard rushing touchdown from Dobbins.
Cleveland, led by first-year coach Kevin Stefanski, opens the season with a loss for the 16th year in a row. Mayfield, a third-year player, was 21-of-39 passing for 189 yards and a touchdown. Conversely, Baltimore wins its fifth straight season opener.
The Ravens will now prepare to face the Houston Texans on Sept. 20 at 4:25 p.m. at NRG Stadium. The Texans lost their season opener to defending Super Bowl champs Kansas City Chiefs, 34-20, on Sept. 13. Last season, Baltimore crushed Houston 41-7 and will rely on its high-powered offense and assertive defensive presence to produce the same outcome in week two.