Joe Flacco threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, Ed Reed took an interception 34 yards for a score, and the Ravens rolled to a 44-13 victory Monday night to extend their home winning streak to 11 games.
Flacco and the offence worked this summer on running plays without a huddle, and when it came time to put the new scheme into action, the results were almost flawless. The Ravens amassed 430 yards, didn't commit a turnover and punted only twice.
"That tempo really helped us out because those guys can really get to the passer and really create a lot of pressure," Flacco said. "I think the fact that we were able to go up-tempo and kind of keep those guys on the field took its toll on them."
After letting an early 14-point lead dwindle to 17-13, the Ravens pulled away by scoring 24 straight points in just over six minutes. Ray Rice ran for 68 yards and two short scores, but instead of dominating the Baltimore attack in his usual fashion, the running back took a back seat to Flacco.
"Obviously, everything went pretty well for us tonight," Flacco said.
Not so for the Bengals, who made the playoffs last year without beating a team that qualified for post-season play. In this one, Cincinnati once again came up short against a high-calibre opponent.
"That certainly wasn't what we expected to have out there today," coach Marvin Lewis said. "We got outplayed and we got outcoached."
Although the 44 points were only 11 fewer than the Ravens mustered in two games against Cincinnati last year, Lewis insisted Baltimore's no-huddle attack wasn't the difference.
"I wish I could say it was the no-huddle," he said. "I think it's an effective thing for them, and it's something they'll continue to do, but I don't think it really bothered us."
The loss sure did.
"They just outplayed us," defensive tackle Domata Peko said. "They just beat us today, and we've got to get better."
Flacco watched the final eight minutes of the blowout on the sideline after going 21 for 29 in Baltimore's ninth consecutive victory in the AFC North. The Ravens were the only team in the division to win an opener.
And while the offence certainly was impressive, Baltimore's defence also excelled in its first game under co-ordinator Dean Pees. Playing without injured NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs — who had 14 sacks last year — the Ravens dropped Andy Dalton four times.
Not only that, but Baltimore turned two turnovers into touchdowns over a two-minute span. After Reed's touchdown return, 37-year-old linebacker Ray Lewis forced a fumble that was recovered by Lardarius Webb, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Rice to make it 41-13 with 13:41 remaining.
Lewis and the Baltimore defence are used to carrying this team, but now the offence seems ready to do its part.
"Joe kind of got us into a rhythm and always kept their defence off balance," Lewis said. "We've practiced against this offence all off-season, so to see it now, when everything's real, I think you have to take your hats off to how hard we worked as a team."
Reed's jaunt with a pass tipped by Cincinnati receiver Brandon Tate put the diminutive safety in the NFL record book. Reed has 1,497 yards in interception returns, eclipsing the previous record of 1,483 yards by Rod Woodson. It was Reed's seventh career score on a pickoff return.
Dalton went 22 for 37 for 221 yards, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 91 yards and a score in his Cincinnati debut.
Dalton went 4 for 5 for 56 yards in the opening drive of the second half, and although the drive stalled at the Baltimore 1, Mike Nugent kicked a 19-yard field goal to get the Bengals to 17-13.
Flacco brought the Ravens right back, throwing a bit of Rice into the mix with excellent results. Rice caught a screen pass for 18 yards and ran for 13 more during an 89-yard drive in which Flacco went 5 for 7 for 73 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dennis Pitta.
After a 40-yard field goal by Ravens rookie Justin Tucker made it 27-13 with 1:13 left in the quarter, Reed struck exactly one minute later.
Flacco went 12 for 15 for 183 yards in the first half to stake Baltimore to a 17-10 lead.
Flacco set the tone for the shootout on the game's first offensive play, throwing deep to Torrey Smith for a 52-yard gain. That set up a 46-yard field goal by Tucker, who won the job in training camp from Billy Cundiff.
Baltimore quickly forced a punt, and Flacco went back to work. He completed a 16-yarder to Jacoby Jones on a third-and-15, tossed a 1-yard pass to Rice on a fourth-and-1 and watched from the backfield as Rice completed the 12-play, 63-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run behind a fine block by fullback Vonta Leach.
"It was really fun for me. I barely got hit tonight," Rice said.
After Dalton got Cincinnati to 10-3 with a 76-yard march that ended with a field goal, Flacco capped an 82-yard drive by splitting two defenders with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin.
The Ravens finally punted with 6 minutes left in the first half, and Dalton used the rest of the time to move the Bengals to their lone touchdown. The Bengals twice converted fourth downs on the 81-yard march, the last one a 6-yard run into the end zone by Green-Ellis on a fourth-and-1.
NOTES: Ravens owner Art Modell was honoured with a tribute and a moment of silence before the game. ... Reed hurt his hamstring on the runback but says he's OK. ... Bengals safety George Iloka hurt his ankle in the first half.
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