With the defense completely dominating the Cincinnati Bengals, Flacco did a solid job managing the offense and avoiding too many costly mistakes. Flacco had been dealing with a sore back, so he was forced to cram all of training camp and four preseason games into one week of practice leading up to the opener.
Flacco did not appear to be hampered by the injury. He even absorbed a crushing hit by Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap late in third quarter and was able to stay in the game.
Flacco ended the day completing 9 of 17 passes for 121 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Those are modest numbers, but more than enough to win.
The question now is whether the Ravens decide to further “Dilferize” the offense, meaning it will play conservatively with the defense performing at such a high level.
At least for this game, Flacco was on board with the strategy, especially playing with the early lead. The Ravens ran ball 42 times and attempted 17 passes, dictating the run of play.
“The last thing you want to do is drop back, with the mode we were in for a quarter and a half, and do something stupid to let them back in the game or have something crazy happen,” Flacco said. “It was definitely a different game. It was one of our old-fashioned games. It reminded me of my first couple games as a rookie. It was one of those where we had to run the ball late in the game and just run the clock out. It’s good coming here to get a win. I don’t care how you do it.”
Flacco will become more comfortable as he continues to practice and play games. Some of the rust from the layoff showed against the Bengals with two delay-of-game penalties. Center Ryan Jensen also was flagged three times.
However, Flacco has a much stronger arm than Dilfer, and at some point, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is going to want him to take some shots downfield.
The Ravens, though, have to be careful to not beat themselves with costly mistakes, especially inside their own 50 yard line. The defense bailed them out several times against Cincinnati by creating five turnovers. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton finished with a 28.4 passer rating — the second lowest of his career.
Flacco admitted after the game it was not an ideal performance by his own offense.
“Let’s be honest. I was 9-for-17, for a hundred and a couple (121) yards,” he said. “I mean, it’s not that fun. I’d rather throw for 350 and win 42-0. But it’s fun to win, and that’s the most important thing.”
The Ravens running game was a pleasant surprise.
Terrance West (19 carries 80 yards, 1 touchdown) and Buck Allen (21 carries, 71 yards) made several key runs and extended drives. More importantly, they helped keep their defense off the field. The game-plan certainly can serve as a blueprint for success moving forward.
The question is whether the Ravens stick to that strategy. Some of the players were happy with the run-first offense, saying it took some of the pressure off Flacco.
“It’s nice to not have to make [Flacco] throw the ball 55 times in his first game,” right guard Marshal Yanda said. “He had a good game, and we’re going to keep rolling.”