Ravens-Bengals: Baltimore Finds Success on Opening Day

chad lamasaCorrespondent ISeptember 7, 2008

I'll be honest, as a Ravens fan I was a little nervous going into this game. Opening the season for the second straight year against divisional rival Cincinnati, I was prepared for the worst.

Having to start a couple of rookies because of injuries and having several of the defensive players seeing their first action since last season is not how you want to begin an NFL campaign.

However, the Ravens surprised me quite a bit.

I shouldn't have worried about the defense. They were the typical Ravens shut-down D, causing three turnovers. They held the Bengals to only eight first downs, two of which were due to penalties, and only allowed two successful third down conversions on 13 attempts.

Chad Ocho Cinco only had one reception for 22 yards late in the third quarter and was never a factor in the game.

Ray Lewis, the heart and soul of the team, added four more tackles onto his franchise record. Dawan Landry and Terrell Suggs also contributed four tackles apiece.

Jarrett Johnson led the team with five tackles, including one sack. Justin Bannan also recorded a sack on Carson Palmer. Chris McAlister came up with a pick and a fumble recovery.

The Bengals could only muster 65 yards rushing and 99 yards passing.

Joe Flacco looked calm, cool, and collected, and seemed to gain more confidence with each snap of the ball.

Fellow rookie Ray Rice performed fairly well, rushing for 64 yards on 22 carries. He did have one fumble after trying to make something happen when he should have just gone down.

Fan favorite Todd Heap seemed a bit rusty after only playing in six games a season ago, and seeing no action in preseason. Heap made a nice catch on the second play of the game, but then fumbled as he was being tackled. This is very unusual for Heap, and once he gets back into the swing of things it won't be an issue for the Ravens.

Chris McAlister had his interception after the Heap fumble, so that didn't hurt the Ravens either.

Probably the biggest surprise was Le'Ron McClain. The second year fullback, splitting carries with Rice due to Willis McGahee's injury, had 86 yards on 19 carries. He also had two catches for 24 yards. Last season McClain carried the ball eight times for 18 yards. He had 12 yards on one carry in this game.

Losing Hall-of-Famer Jonathan Ogden left a huge hole on the offensive line. The line performed well as a whole, giving Flacco great protection and allowing no sacks. The line is extremely young now, with mostly second-year players and a couple of fourth-year guys. If they can continue to mature together, Ogden's loss may be easier to take.

Cam Cameron calling the plays on offense is a major step up over Brian Billick. Late in the first quarter, Cameron called a double reverse, which worked perfectly and resulted in a touchdown.

Flacco faked the hand-off to McClain and then flipped the ball to Derrick Mason, who flipped it to Mark Clayton, who scored the first rushing touchdown of his career after a 42-yard run. Billick never would have called something like that, and that's why he is now a commentator. 

I know it's only the first game of the season, but I saw a lot of things that give me hope for the Ravens this season. If they can stay relatively healthy, they may be able to make some noise in the division.