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Ravens overwhelm Bengals in emotional opener

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Ravens overwhelm Bengals in emotional opener

Going into Monday, eight teams scored 30 or more points and won their opening games.

Make that nine.

The Ravens, behind a high-octane, hurry-up offense that caught fire from the start, blew out the Cincinnati Bengals 44-13 at M&T Bank Stadium.

In his fifth season, coach John Harbaugh is undefeated in openers as the Ravens have beaten this AFC North foe for the third time in a row.

Joe Flacco came out throwing, hitting Torrey Smith on a 52-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage. Flacco completed passes to seven different receivers en route to 21-for-29 passing for 299 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 128.4 rating.

We didnt get that many drives, really, but we were efficient enough that we put points on the board and sometimes thats what you need to do, Flacco said. When you do that it puts a lot of pressure on the other teams offense and I think thats when our defense is at their best.

The Ravens got out to a 17-3 lead in the first half but saw it shrink to 17-13 after the Bengals scored a 19-yard field goal on their first possession of the third quarter.

Thats when both sides of the Ravens cranked up their play to put the game out of reach.

On his first drive of the second half, Flacco completed three passes to tight end Dennis Pitta, who missed the entire preseason with a hand injury, en route to an 89-yard drive that took less than four minutes. Flacco capped it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Pitta.

We were in attack mode all night, said Pitta, who finished with five catches for 73 yards. Its what we envisioned for this year. We know what were capable of and were looking forward to getting better.

The defense started to get to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who was sacked four times. Ed Reed, who turns 34 Tuesday, picked off an overthrown pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.

Nose tackle Haloti Ngata registered two of those sacks. Dalton was dinged on a sack by Ray Lewis as he fumbled deep in Cincinnatis territory that was recovered by Lardarius Webb, who began blitzing from the edge.

Two plays later, Ray Rice rushed into the end zone from one-yard for his second touchdown of the night. Rice rushed the ball only 10 times but gained 68 yards.

Anquan Boldin had four catches for 63 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown. Tight end Ed Dickson, who missed the last three preseason games with a shoulder sprain, had two catches for 22 yards.

It was an all-around performance by the Ravens, who held Bengals star receiver A.J. Green to five catches for 70 yards. Dalton targeted him 11 times.

And despite the smiles after the game, not lost on the Ravens was the memory of late former owner Art Modell, who relocated the team from Cleveland to Baltimore. He passed away last week.

We all wanted to feel Art here with us, Ngata said. He was up there with us. We felt we had to play a little bit more for him and his family. A lot of us would not be here without him.

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Steelers players plunder Le'Veon Bell's locker a day after missed deadline

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Steelers players plunder Le'Veon Bell's locker a day after missed deadline

Le'Veon Bell decided not to return to the Steelers this season, and his former teammates have apparently decided they can have his belongings. 

The All-Pro running back didn't sign his $14.5 million franchise tag by Tuesday's deadline, and thus is ineligible to play this season.

Steelers player were seen plundering his locker Wednesday in front of reporters. Defensive end Bud Dupree went right for Bell's cleats, thanking him for the Jordan brand shoes and saying he wishes Bell success.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters he sent Bell his well-wishes, but got no response from his former backfield mate. 

It's unclear what Bell plans to do next, but it's crystal clear the Steelers have moved on, with his shoes in tow. 

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Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III prepared to start if hip injury sidelines Joe Flacco

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USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III prepared to start if hip injury sidelines Joe Flacco

Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has had his fair share of life changing moments. 

Winning the Heisman Trophy in 2016, being drafted by the Ravens in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and come Sunday, possibly his first NFL start.

With Joe Flacco nursing a hip injury suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9, the 21-year-old could be leading the Ravens for a full 60 minutes against division rival Cincinnati Bengals in what could be a defining moment of their season.

"I'm just going into it like any other week," Jackson said Wednesday. "Just preparing for whatever."

While Jackson has appeared in all nine games going 7-for-12 for 87 passing yards and one touchdown, he is the only first-round quarterback out of the 2018 draft that has yet to start this season. 

When asked how he would feel if his name is called Sunday, Jackson said he would have butterflies at first but added once the ball is snapped, "it's on."

Through the Ravens' first half of the season, how and when Jackson is utilized at either quarterback or receiver, has lacked consistency. Add in the lack of highlight reel passes from him and many are concerned he's not ready for an NFL start. 

The fast style of NFL play compared to that of college football was something Jackson admittedly struggled with throughout the preseason. But with nine regular season games under his belt, Jackson feels that is the area where he's taken the biggest strides. 

"Calling the plays," Jackson said. "Before I'd have to ask coach a hundred times, 'say it again, say it again,' but now he says it one time to me. Don't get me wrong, sometimes if [the call] is long or whatever I have to ask [coach to] say it again, but other than that I'm getting better with that."

Head coach John Harbaugh offered no insight on who would be their starting quarterback on Sunday and it can be expected he'll keep hush up until the last moment. Flacco was not on the practice field during media availability Wednesday, either. 

But let's not forget the other veteran quarterback on their roster; Robert Griffin III

For the first time since 2009, the Ravens decided to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster for this very reason.

After sitting out of football for a year, RGIII was given a second chance in Baltimore, but has been a gameday inactive since the start of the season. If the week progresses and neither Flacco or Jackson seem ready, it could be the comeback of the once Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

"That's my job. That's why they brought me here," Griffin III said Wednesday on if he feels prepared to possibly start. "They brought me here to be a pro. They brought me here to help this team if need be. I try to help the defense every week on scout team and then do those [reps], and if my number's called I'll be able to go out there and lead this team."

Both RGIII and Jackson said that it would be "awesome" if they were named the starting QB on Sunday, but that no matter who it ends up being they're all here for one another.

"I'm going to continue to help [Lamar] just like I have all season because we're about the Ravens here," Griffin III said. "It's not about individuals. We've got a pretty daunting task ahead with this Bengals team and then just with the rest of our schedule, so we've got to make sure we make the most of every opportunity."

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