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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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Lamar Jackson's dual-threat dominance earns him another record-setting award

Lamar Jackson's dual-threat dominance earns him another record-setting award

Another week, another Lamar Jackson performance for the ages.

The second-year quarterback has already set numerous records in Baltimore, just 13 starts into his professional career.

Most of his record-book entries have come thanks to his legs. The QB is a prodigious rusher, one of the most talented running signal-callers in NFL history.

That talent helped earn him more honors after his whopping 152 rushing yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6.

Jackson got started on the ground early, racking up 111 rushing yards in the first half alone. He became just the third quarterback in the modern era to finish with more than 150 rushing yards, and he was rewarded with the FedEx Ground Player of the Week award.

Jackson was the first quarterback in the 17-year history of the award to even be nominated, and now he becomes the first at his position to win it.

Of course, it hasn’t just been on the ground where Jackson has impressed.

He kicked off his 2019 with a bang, throwing for 324 yards and 5 touchdowns on just 20 pass attempts against the woeful Dolphins in Week 1. For his efforts, Jackson was named the Air Player of the Week.

Jackson becomes, you guessed it, the first player in NFL history to win both the Air and Ground versions of the award in the same season, and he managed it just five weeks apart.

He really is one of the most gifted, unique athletes in NFL history. As the Ravens’ tweet says, he is “one of a kind.”

At this rate, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t break a few more barriers the rest of this season and beyond.

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‘It’s like facing Steph Curry’: Ravens hope to slow down MVP candidate Russell Wilson

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‘It’s like facing Steph Curry’: Ravens hope to slow down MVP candidate Russell Wilson

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If there’s one person in the Ravens locker room who knows Russell Wilson, it’s Earl Thomas. 

Thomas, who spent nine years in Seattle before he came to Baltimore this past offseason, had practiced against Wilson every day since he entered the league in 2012. 

Now, he’ll be one of the central figures on defense as Baltimore heads to Seattle to face Wilson and the Seahawks. And this year, Wilson has been better than ever. 

“Everything is predicated off the run game, and we also know that Russell can extend plays,” Thomas said. “That's when he kind of works his magic — when he plays backyard football. And his receivers do a great job of just melding with him and creating space, boxing guys out and creating leverages and coming up with big catches."

Through just six games, Wilson has thrown for 1,704 yards — a 4,544 yard pace — and 14 passing touchdowns with no interceptions. He’s also rushed for 151 yards and has three rushing scores. He’s also completing 72.5 percent of his passes. 

Despite being in an offense that runs the ball about 50 percent of the time, Wilson has excelled. Specifically, he’s been nearly untouchable outside the pocket. 

And when he’s under pressure and has to escape, he’s one of the league’s best. 

“It’s just like all the other quarterbacks we’ve played before,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “You can say, ‘Keep him in the pocket.’ There’s times you think you have him in the pocket and he shakes you and he gets out of the pocket. He’s extending plays better than he ever has.”

The Ravens, who blitz as much as anyone in the NFL, will have to make the decision to try and contain Wilson in the pocket where he can pick apart the Ravens defense, or sit back and defend against the pass. Either way, there’s no good option.

“It's sort of like playing against Steph Curry in basketball, if you will,” Martindale said. “You can pick him halfcourt and he's going to try to drive by you or you can slack off and he's going to pull up and hit a three." 

The Ravens have their own, different, version of Wilson in Lamar Jackson, who the Ravens are hoping can simulate Wilson’s ability. 

But there are only a select number of players in the league that can do what Jackson and Wilson can do with a football in their hands.

"I think he's the only guy that I've seen do it pretty effortlessly, like Lamar does,” Marlon Humphrey said. “We always say we don't want to play Lamar, so I guess we're kind of playing a polished-up, couple-years-down-the-line Lamar. So, we definitely better get ready, because he definitely can do it all."

Against Wilson, the Ravens will have one of the toughest tasks in the NFL this season. Through six weeks, there hasn’t been a team that’s been able to slow him down. 

“Defensively, I'm sitting there watching Lamar, and I'm like, 'Oh, wow,'” Humphrey said. “So, I'm hoping that's not happening when I'm out there on defense with him (Wilson). But Russell, he really can get it done. I'm not really saying I'm a fan, but he's Russell Wilson. He’s a pretty big deal.”

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