AFC North: 2012 Week 1 Rapid Reaction
September, 10, 2012
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com
BALTIMORE -- A couple quick thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 44-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, which kept coach John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco undefeated in season openers. It also was the Ravens' 19th win at home in their past 20 tries.
What it means: Baltimore is 1-0, and Cincinnati is 0-1. After the first week of the season, we typically get too high on the teams that won and too low on the teams that didn’t. Guilty as charged. But the Ravens' offense, and Flacco in particular, looked very sharp. Harbaugh told me back during training camp to get on the Flacco bandwagon, and I am officially on it. He made tough throws, like the one that gave Baltimore a 17-3 lead in the second quarter. Flacco pump faked and then, under pressure, threw off his back foot and hit Anquan Boldin with a 34-yard strike over Bengals safety Taylor Mays' head. Big arm. Lots of targets. An effective Ray Rice. Look out.
What I liked: For the Ravens, their no huddle offense. It was up-tempo and kept Cincinnati on its heals. Rice’s effectiveness, both running the ball and catching it. Torrey Smith as a deep threat. Dennis Pitta as a trusted target. Baltimore’s run-pass ratio. And their killer instinct. Cincinnati cut the lead to 17-13 on their first drive of the second half. Baltimore then ran off 24 unanswered points.
For the Bengals, BenJarvus Green-Ellis gave them a boost. He ran hard. With the interior of Cincinnati’s offensive line shuffled, Green-Ellis didn’t get much inside. But in short yardage and at the goal line, he was an asset. Clearly, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have something special going, but Andrew Hawkins, a 5-foot-7 second-year receiver out of Toledo was a decent second option. He finished with eight catches for 86 yards and no touchdowns.
What I didn't like: In the first half and the early part of the second, Baltimore struggled to get any pressure on Dalton, who had time to look to his second and third reads, and back again. That changed later in the game, when the Ravens' defense hammered Dalton repeatedly.
The question for the Bengals is this: Why did they keep Dalton in so much with the game no longer in doubt? Baltimore took a 41-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. There was no need.
Who's the man: Ed Reed. With his third-quarter interception of Dalton -- which made the score 34-13 and essentially put away a game that was slipping away from the Bengals anyway -- Reed became the all-time leader with 1,497 interception return yards. The previous record-holder: Rod Woodson, a 2009 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Reed now has 58 career interceptions (compared to Woodson’s 71) and has 14 career touchdowns, including seven regular-season interception returns for touchdowns.
What's next: The Ravens travel up I-95 to play at Philadelphia on Sunday. Cincinnati hosts Cleveland.