AFC North: Bengals-Ravens

Flacco mania in Baltimore

September, 7, 2008
9/07/08
7:02
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Entering Sunday's season opener, there were a smattering of signs in the stands of M&T Bank Stadium that read "Wacko for Flacco."

Those fans were ahead of the curve.

 
 James Lang/US Presswire
 Joe Flacco threw for 129 yards and rushed for a touchdown in the Ravens' victory.

But by the end of the fourth quarter of the Baltimore Ravens' 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, the entire stadium of 70,978 fans joined in unison with a chant of "Let's go Flacco!"

"Yeah, I heard that," Ravens receiver Derrick Mason said with a smile about the cheers for QB Joe Flacco. "And the way he played today, it was deservingly so."

Flacco, who threw for 129 yards on 15-of-29 passing, was as surprised as anyone by this rousing ovation.

"I kind of thought I heard it, but I wasn't really sure," Flacco said. "I thought, 'Why would they be doing that?'”

Indeed, the rookie first-round pick was far from perfect. But in a town like Baltimore that has seen quarterbacks such as Vinny Testaverde, Elvis Grbac and Kyle Boller stumble since the Ravens' inception 12 years ago, Flacco looked solid in leading the Ravens (1-0) to their first victory of the 2008 season.

Flacco showed leadership. He produced three scoring drives, helping put together 21 first downs for Baltimore, 12 of which were passing.

Flacco showed poise. The Bengals tried to pressure on defense, but quick decisions and getting rid of the football led to zero sacks and zero turnovers.

Flacco showed improvisation. He threw a nice block during a double-reverse that sprung receiver Mark Clayton to a 42-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, then made a nice 38-yard scoring run of his own in the second half that gave the Ravens a 17-3 lead.

With the way Baltimore's defense played, that was all the team needed from its starting quarterback. In the end, Flacco played well enough to win, and also solidify, what began as a three-way quarterback race in training camp between Troy Smith (viral infection) and Kyle Boller (shoulder, out for the season).

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Ravens 17, Bengals 10

September, 7, 2008
9/07/08
4:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BALTIMORE, Md. -- The Ravens became the first AFC North team to earn a division win this season with a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.

In our view, the difference was Baltimore overwhelming Cincinnati at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

The offense kept Cincinnati's defense away from rookie quarterback Joe Flacco (129 yards, one touchdown run) just enough to allow the rookie to put points on the board. And the Ravens' defense, which was No. 6 in the NFL last year, held true to form by stuffing the run and pressuring quarterback Carson Palmer.

Healthy cornerbacks made a world of difference in Baltimore's defensive scheme. Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle covered Cincinnati's receivers well. Chad Ocho Cinco made his only catch in the third quarter, and the Ravens' complicated blitz packages confused the Bengals' offensive line.

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis made a key fourth-and-1 stop on Bengals tailback Chris Perry with seven minutes to go that told the story of the game.

This was an interesting matchup because neither team had showed much promise in the preseason. What we learned is physicality usually prevails in the AFC North, and Cincinnati will have to improve in that category if it wants to win inside the division, particularly on the road.

Lack of preseason hurting Bengals' O

September, 7, 2008
9/07/08
3:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BALTIMORE -- The Cincinnati Bengals offense has been the strength of their team for a long time, but not today.

Although Baltimore's defense has a lot to do with it, quarterback Carson Palmer and his skill players do not look as sharp as they have in the past.

Receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring) and Chad Ocho Cinco (shoulder) both missed significant time in training camp and the preseason. Palmer (broken nose) also missed the final exhibition game.

Now their passing game is trying to work out the kinks in the regular season opener, which is never a good idea, especially against the Ravens' veteran defense. Cincinnati already used three timeouts so far because of crowd noise. The pass protection has been shaky and Ocho Cinco didn't catch his first pass until the third quarter.

(Update)

Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco just ran a 38-yard quarterback sneak to give the Ravens lead 17-3 after three quarters.

Bengals-Ravens halftime update

September, 7, 2008
9/07/08
2:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BALTIMORE, Md. -- We have an AFC North brawl going between the Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. Baltimore leads 10-3 at the break.

Here are some notes and observations.

  • Baltimore rookie quarterback Joe Flacco is doing just enough in the first half to give his team a chance to win. He's completed 6-of-16 passes for 45 yards but is managing the offense with no turnovers. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is calling basic, quick-hitting routes for Flacco. It's a smart call, because it's also keeping the Bengals from blitzing the rookie.
  • The Bengals' offense looked out of synch early, perhaps because of the amount of playing time key players like Chad Ocho Cinco (shoulder) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring) missed in the preseason. Receivers aren't getting open and the Ravens are pressuring and making quarterback Carson Palmer look uncomfortable in the pocket. Palmer already has a pick thrown to Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister. There were also two timeouts used in the first half because of crowd noise and a delay of game.
  • Baltimore safety Ed Reed (neck) and tailback Willis McGahee (knee) surprised many by giving it a go today. McGahee is dressed but doesn't have a carry. Reed had a key pass breakup near Houshmandzadeh that resulted in McAlister's interception.
  • Chris Perry is finding a hard time running against Baltimore's defense because the Bengals are not winning early at the line of scrimmage. He has 29 yards on 13 carries and a fumble when he was stripped by Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 19 straight games.
  • Bengals backup cornerback David Jones suffered a blow to the head on special teams in the second quarter. His return is questionable.

Those tricky Ravens?

September, 7, 2008
9/07/08
1:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Where was this super-charged offense in the preseason?

The Ravens ran a tricky, double-reverse to receiver Mark Clayton, who ran for a 42-yard touchdown to take an early 7-0 lead, which is where it stands at the end of the first quarter.

Baltimore receiver Derrick Mason received an end around from rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw a key block after Clayton received another end-around from Mason. The home crowd went into a frenzy after a solid call by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

The Ravens caught the Bengals by surprise after playing mostly vanilla on offense in the preseason. It was the first touchdown drive in the career of Flacco and first-year coach John Harbaugh.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Quick note to pass on as the Baltimore Ravens host the Cincinnati Bengals.

The league notified Bengals receiver Chad Ocho Cinco that he will not be allowed to wear his legal surname on his jersey today because there are still unresolved issues.

Ocho Cinco stepped on the field moments ago with his old "C. Johnson" jersey.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Anthony

BALTIMORE, Md. -- The Ravens will try to have the golden touch rub off on them today as NBA star Carmelo Anthony was chosen by the team as its honorary captain.

Anthony, a Baltimore native, said he hasn't been to a game since he was 8 years old. Fresh off a gold-medal winning performance with Team USA, the Ravens hope Anthony can bring them some luck against the Cincinnati Bengals, as well.

"I came a long way," Anthony said an hour before kickoff. "It's a great deal to be at the Ravens' first game, their home opener. I never thought I would be doing the coin toss out here. It's just an honor for me."

Anthony joins swimmer Michael Phelps as two Baltimore natives with a combined nine gold medals from last month's Olympics. Anthony brought his gold medal with him and also had a prediction for Sunday's game.

"I'd say 24-13, something like that," he said. "Ravens, of course."

Bengals-Ravens inactives

September, 7, 2008
9/07/08
12:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Here are the inactives for Sunday's AFC North battle between the Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.

Baltimore

Cincinnati

Field conditions at M&T Bank Stadium

September, 7, 2008
9/07/08
11:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Despite heavy rains in the area Saturday due to Tropical Storm Hanna, the field conditions at M&T Bank Stadium are ideal this morning. The skies are clear with expected temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s by game time, while the storm will affect cities more to the northeast today.

That might be good news for the offense of the Cincinnati Bengals, who will probably have more success throwing the football against Baltimore's tough defense. The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 19 straight games, dating back to 2006.

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