New Era in Baltimore Begins with a 17-10 Win

There were so many questions for the Baltimore Ravens heading into the home opener for 2008. How will two rookies, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice respond to being thrust into the starting lineup? How will the team react to having a new general on the sidelines in John Harbaugh? Would the Ravens defense, which struggled mightily at times in 2007, be able to recapture the swagger of old?

This is why they play the games.

Flacco was solid if not spectacular in his debut, going 15-29 for 129 yards and running for a 37-yard touchdown. Flacco showed poise and command in Cam Cameron’s scheme and had the look of a man in charge the entire contest. Ray Rice put in a workmanlike 22 carries for 64 yards but had a few miscues. A fumble that was picked up by Jonathan Joseph for a 65 yard score and a dropped pass over the middle that could have resulted in a huge yardage, if not a possible score. The bigger story in the backfield was Le’Ron McClain who pounded the Bengal defense late on his way to 86 yards of his own providing the Thunder to Rice’s Lightning.

John Harbaugh was pleased with his team’s performance in his first NFL victory. “It’s a thrill,” Harbaugh said. “I’m appreciative of (owner) Steve Bisciotti, (general manager) Ozzie Newsome and the rest of the Ravens organization for giving a no-name a chance to be a head coach in this league. We have a long way to go, but this is a good start.” Harbaugh had to grab a towel or two as the vets doused him with Gatorade as the remaining seconds wound down.

The Ravens defense looked energized and was in Carson Palmer’s face all day, which was held 99 yards through the air and was picked off once. He never really looked comfortable in the pocket, nor was he able to find his pair of talented receivers, Chad Johnson (1 catch, 22 yards) or T.J. Houshmandzadeh (3 catches, 44 yards) most of the game. Ravens corner, Chris McAlister had a solid game grabbing a pick and scooping up a fumble to set up a Matt Stover field goal.

Points to Ponder

Haloti Ngata had perhaps the play of the game stopping Chris Perry on a 4th and 1 on the Baltimore 25 yard line with 10:15 left in the game. The Bengals would never get the ball back.

Joe Flacco showed an ability to adjust at the line as well as a calm demeanor. His 37-yard touchdown scamper was the result of an audible and rollout that had him almost untouched to the goal line.
Is Todd Heap playing injured? Heap had a rough outing fumbling on the second play of the opening drive and dropping a sure touchdown that hit him in the numbers.

Deception and Trickery was the name of the game as a double reverse helped Mark Clayton dance into the end zone for the game’s first score. I’ll say it again; the days of the vanilla offense are over.
The Baltimore defense was back in step, as they did not allow a 100-yard rusher for an NFL best 20th straight game. They brought pressure with a variety of blitzes and overwhelmed the opposition at times.

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