The rookie head coach made all the right moves,
and the first-year quarterback displayed remarkable footwork and
poise in his initial NFL start.
Most of all, though, the Baltimore Ravens received a typically
solid performance from their defense in defeating the Cincinnati
Bengals 17-10 Sunday.
The Ravens (1-0) forced two turnovers and limited the Bengals
(0-1) to 154 yards to make John Harbaugh a winner in his debut as
an NFL coach. Cincinnati's Carson Palmer was 10-for-25 for 99
yards, and his interception ended the Bengals' deepest foray into
Baltimore territory - except for a 65-yard fumble return for a
touchdown by Johnathan Joseph.
Palmer was outplayed by Ravens rookie Joe Flacco, forced into
the starting role because of a season-ending shoulder injury to
Kyle Boller and Troy Smith's infected tonsils. Flacco ran for a
38-yard touchdown to put Baltimore up 17-3 in the third quarter and
deftly operated within the careful attack deployed by Harbaugh and
new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
Flacco went 15-for-29 for 129 yards and no interceptions. The
6-foot-6 quarterback's 38-yard run, which came after he found no
open receiver on a rollout to his right, was 13 yards farther than
his longest run at the University of Delaware.
Baltimore's other touchdown came on a double reverse, a trick
play that represented a marked departure from the conservative
offense employed by Harbaugh predecessor, Brian Billick.
After Joseph's return of a fumble by rookie Ray Rice made it
17-10 with 10:15 left, the Bengals faced a fourth-and-1 at the
Baltimore 25. Chris Perry ran into Haloti Ngata for a 1-yard loss,
and Baltimore held the ball the rest of way.
Bengals receiver Chad Ocho Cinco, who legally changed his name
from Chad Johnson, was forced by the NFL to wear Johnson on his
jersey "because certain issues need to be resolved," the league
said in a statement. Ocho Cinco finished with one catch for 22
Cincinnati managed only 84 yards in offense in the first half,
getting its only points on a 43-yard field goal by Shayne Graham
with five seconds left to close to 10-3.
Ravens tight end Todd Heap lost a fumble on the second play from
scrimmage, but Cincinnati failed to capitalize. On the Bengals'
second series, a pass deflected off the hands of Ocho Cinco was
tipped and intercepted by Chris McAlister.
The Ravens then moved 78 yards, the last 42 on the surprising
double reverse. After Flacco handed off to Derrick Mason, who was
running around right end, Mason flipped the ball to Mark Clayton
running the other way. Clayton weaved into the end zone for a 7-0
Late in the half, McAlister recovered a fumble by Perry at the
Cincinnati 40. Baltimore moved to the 3, and after Heap dropped a
pass in the end zone, Matt Stover kicked a field goal.