Joe Flacco bombed the Bengals defense early and often Monday night as the Ravens rolled to a 44-13 win in the debut of Monday Night Football.
BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens’ new no-huddle offense gave the Cincinnati Bengals no chance to win.
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 offense 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 postseason play. In this one, Cincinnati once again came up short against a high-caliber 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 offense certainly was impressive, Baltimore’s defense also excelled in its first game under coordinator 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 defense are used to carrying this team, but now the offense seems ready to do its part.
“Joe kind of got us into a rhythm and always kept their defense off balance,” Lewis said. “We’ve practiced against this offense all offseason, 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 honored 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.
CHARGERS ROLL, RAIDERS STINK IN 2012 OPENER:
OAKLAND, Calif. — The San Diego Chargers know quite well how shoddy special teams can doom a team. They were happy to be on the receiving end of kicking woes for a change.
Nate Kaeding kicked five field goals in his first game back from a torn knee ligament and the Chargers capitalized on three botched punts following an injury to Oakland's long snapper to beat the Raiders 22-14 Monday night.
"A couple years back, we had some serious issues on our special teams," Kaeding said. "Pretty much everything. Kicks returned, punts blocked, that sort of thing. I can imagine you're going to see 31 other teams working a lot of backup long snappers come Wednesday. It's something a lot of teams honestly don't do a lot of. It's just one play away from someone having to go in there and get it done. It was unfortunate for them, obviously."
It was just two years ago that the Chargers allowed three kickoff returns for touchdowns, a punt return for a TD and had five punts blocked, ultimately costing them an AFC West title.
This time they got three field goals off the Raiders' punting problems to win the season opener.
"We've been in that situation. It makes it more complicated, it makes it tougher and we were able to take advantage of it," coach Norv Turner said.
Philip Rivers threw for 231 yards and a 6-yard touchdown to Malcom Floyd in a turnover-free game as San Diego won despite starting undrafted rookie Mike Harris at left tackle and missing starting running back Ryan Mathews and receiver Vincent Brown to injuries.
San Diego protected Harris by throwing short often with 16 of Rivers' 24 completions going to running backs and tight ends. Rivers was sacked just once and did not turn the ball over after having 20 interceptions a year ago.
"I've always tried to take care of the football and be smart, but you have to be able to manage the situation," Rivers said. "The situation today was our defense was playing good, our special teams is getting the ball. ... If you go back since I've been playing here and we don't turn the ball over, it's 90-something percent we win. That was the key for the offense tonight."
Oakland had its own problems with injuries. The absence of deep-threat receivers Denarius Moore (hamstring) and Jacoby Ford (left foot) left Carson Palmer mostly throwing underneath to Darren McFadden, who caught a career-high 13 passes. A head injury to Pro Bowl long snapper Jon Condo in the second quarter proved to be even more significant when backup long snapper Travis Goethel had to fill in.
Early in the third quarter, the Raiders lined up to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the San Diego 48. But after a penalty for 12 men in the huddle, Oakland decided to punt. Goethel, who last snapped in high school, rolled one back to Lechler, who was tackled for a loss, giving San Diego the ball at the Raiders 39. That set up a 28-yard field goal by Kaeding.
After Oakland was stopped on its next drive, Lechler set up closer to Goethel, whose snap made it back in the air. But Dante Rosario broke through for the first block against Lechler since 2006 — a year before Condo joined the team. The Chargers once again had to settle for a short field goal and led 16-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
"It's pretty hard. It's hard snapping on the dirt, too. I've never snapped on the dirt before," Goethel said. "Trust me, I wish it never happened."
Goethel rolled another snap back early in the fourth quarter, once again giving San Diego the ball in Oakland territory, setting up Kaeding's career-high tying fifth field goal to make it 22-6. Lechler consoled Goethel as they walked off the field.
"A lot of people would have walked away from that idea," Lechler said. "I know he feels terrible. But he shouldn't."
Palmer finally got Oakland into the end zone with 54 seconds left on a 2-yard pass to rookie Rod Streater and the two connected for a 2-point conversion to make it 22-14. But San Diego recovered the onside kick and iced the game.
Palmer went 32 for 46 for 297 yards.
The Raiders had little trouble moving the ball in the first half, but could not get into the end zone and trailed 10-6 at the break.
Oakland gained 204 yards but settled for field goals of 51 and 19 yards by Sebastian Janikowski. Another prime scoring drive ended when Streater fumbled at the San Diego 29.
The Chargers used two long passes by Rivers and penalties by Oakland on their two scoring drives. Robert Meacham beat Ron Bartell on a 46-yard deep ball to set up Kaeding's 23-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Rivers hit Floyd on a 23-yarder on a drive that was extended by three Oakland penalties that gave San Diego a first down, including two offside penalties by Tommy Kelly on third down. Rivers capped the drive by escaping pressure and finding Floyd for a TD.
NOTES: The Raiders, who set an NFL record with 163 penalties last season, had six for 35 yards. ... McFadden's 13 catches set a record for a Raiders running back. ... San Diego has won eight of nine games in Oakland.