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Ravens overwhelm Bengals in emotional opener


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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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."


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Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

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Ravens D-coordinator Don Martindale puts personal stamp on unit

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There are no dreary work days for Don Martindale, who has overwhelmingly embraced his new role as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.

After serving for five seasons as the team's linebackers coach, Martindale was promoted to coordinator in January after Dean Pees left the post.

Enthusiastic doesn't even begin to describe Martindale's attitude about being in charge of the defense.

"Ever since we've made this transition, it's been a joy to just come through those gates every day. I love it," Martindale said after Wednesday's mandatory minicamp practice.

This isn't the first time Martindale has been put in charge of molding a defense. In 2010, he watched over a unit in Denver that was the worst in the NFL in both yards and points allowed per game.

Given a second chance, the 55-year-old Martindale is putting together a defense that will rely heavily on the instinct of several of its most proven players, most notably safety Eric Weddle and linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley.

"He's just putting his personal fix on our defense and expanding it, giving the guys confidence to play fast," Weddle said. "The idea is to do what's best for the defense, not what's best the individual."

Martindale called Mosley "the quarterback" of a fluid unit that can make a snap-change from drop-back coverage to an all-out blitz. In that regard, Mosley believes this defense is superior to the one that in 2017 yielded 18.9 points per game, sixth-best in the NFL.

"The way we're able to use our core guys, put them in different spots and do some of the same things just from different positions, it's more creative, I would say, than where we were last year," Mosley said.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh promoted Martindale rather than go outside the organization because he wanted to extend his vision of a defense that has evolved since his arrival in 2008.

"All we're doing is forwarding John's plan," Martindale said. "We're remodeling the package. It's still Ravens football, it's still Ravens defense, but we've streamlined it. It's the elegant simplicity. Guys are playing really fast."

Asked for his take on Martindale's defense, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg replied, "They're fast and they're furious."

Sure, things might be different once the pads go on at training camp, but at this point, Martindale's boss likes what he sees.

"We're doing a lot of neat things on defense, things that are really good," Harbaugh said. "More than ever, we're putting it on our players to make decisions in real time."

Martindale has a new title, but old habits die hard.

"For the most part, it's been the same," Mosley said. "He always comes in and says, `I have to lead the linebacker room,' and sits down and gets to talking like he's back at linebacker coach."

Told of Mosley's disclosure, Martindale smiled and said, "I've been trying to stay out of there, but you can't help but go in. That's home. I have a good time in the secondary room as well."

And just about everywhere else.

"Where we're going with this thing is really exciting to me," Martindale said, "and I know it's exciting to the players."

In other training camp news, cornerback Jimmy Smith was a surprise participant at practice, going through a light regimen of individual drills just six months after tearing his left Achilles tendon.

"I don't know if Jimmy's like half Wolverine, but he's healed up in half the time of regular human beings," Weddle said, referring to the amazing recuperative powers of the Marvel super hero.