Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The Ravens' first game of the season has come and gone. And compared to last years season opener this game was a 180 degree turn around. Instead of a hyped up season full of unmet expectations, we had the our expectations exceeded. A rookie quarterback flung into the starting role who didn't make any mistakes. Compare that to a year ago with a veteran quarterback who had 6 turnovers in the first half. Last year was a season of injuries and underachieving, of aging quarterbacks and asking too much from the team. This year is different. This year has a new feel. This is a year where everyone seems to be fighting for a starting job. The preseason has come and gone but the starting line up is still very malleable.
First, there's the quarterback situation. Flacco earned himself another start next week by playing with poise on the field. He did throw an interception. He did not give up a fumble. And he managed to avoid getting sacked. This had a lot to do with the offensive line which didn't seem to be missing future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden all that much. The offensive line is young and inexperienced, but they played like veterans, protecting Flacco in the pocket and allowing him to barely be rushed. It was an inspiring performance, even if it was against the Bungles...I mean Bengals.
The defense led by Ray Lewis was stellar. Carson Palmer got knocked around like a rag doll. And they really only let up one field goal, partially because of a questionable pass interference call on Chris McAlister. (The first one, not the second one) The only touchdown the Bengals score was off a fumble by rookie running back Ray Rice. But he played a solid game otherwise, tearing up the Bengals defense, so the mistake is easily forgiven by the fans.
The Ravens looked all around surprisingly good. A lot of credit for that has to go to the Bengals being terrible, but they were terrible last year and creamed us in the season opener, so I'm going to focus on the positive. John Harbaugh's philosophy of working hard in the preseason must have paid off. Because these Ravens came out looking to dominate and to work together. This was a team that respected and wanted to protect the quarterback. And he returned the favor by throwing a hard block on Mark Clayton's double reverse touchdown play. The team really seemed to be looking out for each other.
And as an added bonus, many of the defenders who's starts seemed questionable were able to play and avoid any further injury. Ed Reed and Chris McAlister both played well, even with the penalties on McAlister. And the defense didn't have to score points for the team to win. The offense actually scored the points. Making this season seem promising all of a sudden. (Last year no one scored points and two seasons ago the defense scored most of the points.)
Now, we still have a tough schedule and things that worked Sunday can't be expected every week. A double reverse is almost never heard of, and while cool, I doubt its going to be a regular play. Also, Flacco's rush for a touchdown was longer than any rush in college, so I'm not ready to believe he's about to become a running quarterback. But the way the team played and the way Flacco managed to stay cool under pressure and improvise when needed wins my vote of confidence. I'm ready to watch next weeks Houston game and believe from the beginning that we can win.