With the Ravens improving to 2-0 on the season after the 27-24 win in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. There were understandable reasons why Baltimore had dropped three straight in Cincinnati, and Sunday afforded the excuse of multiple starters being out on offense and defense. It’d be easy to chalk up the victory solely to having a healthy Lamar Jackson, but this was a complete performance with few exceptions.
2. That said, Jackson turned in his best game since September of last season as he operated the quick passing game with impressive rhythm and accuracy. Other than a second-quarter fumble negated by a penalty and a couple overthrows on deep balls in the first half, Jackson was nearly flawless.
3. Even with the ball coming out quickly, the offensive line deserves high praise for playing so well without Ronnie Stanley and Tyler Linderbaum. I can tolerate three holding penalties if it means my franchise quarterback doesn’t get sacked and is hit only once. The run blocking was strong too.
4. Given the injury picture and how poorly the Bengals played in Week 1, the Ravens setting the tone for the day with the touchdown on an opening drive lasting nearly eight minutes felt critical. Baltimore scored a touchdown on just one opening drive all last season.
5. Allowing only 17 points on defense, the Ravens kept everything in front of them, leaving Joe Burrow to settle for underneath throws and check-downs and forcing the Bengals to convert third down after third down. By the time Cincinnati finally awoke, the clock was working in Baltimore’s favor.
6. Such a defensive strategy requires excellent tackling, and the Ravens did that for most of the afternoon. Patrick Queen was all over the place and made multiple open-field stops to continue his excellent start to the season. He’s going to make himself a lot of money this year.
7. Geno Stone was also a strong tackler and came away with the pivotal goal-line interception that helped turn a potential deficit into a 10-point lead in the third quarter. You’d rather not lose Marcus Williams to injury, but Stone again showed why he’s a high-quality backup Mike Macdonald can trust.
8. Jackson’s 52-yard bomb to Zay Flowers came on the play immediately following Stone’s pick. The rookie wide receiver didn’t see the same target share as Week 1, but that highlight catch was impressive for a 5-foot-9, 182-pound receiver who plays tougher than his frame would suggest.
9. Speaking of highlight plays, Nelson Agholor — who wasn’t even targeted in the opener — made a terrific over-the-shoulder touchdown catch on third-and-5, which proved to be the deciding score for Baltimore. Connections between quarterback and receiver don’t get any prettier than that.
10. On the heels of committing three penalties in Week 1, the special teams giving up an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown will make for a long week. Such a breakdown never sits well with John Harbaugh, especially when it was critical to keeping Cincinnati in the game early.
11. After sitting out the opener, Mark Andrews finished with a team-high eight targets, five catches, and a 3-yard touchdown catch on third-and-goal in the third quarter. The middle of the field looked much different for Jackson than it did last week largely because of the Pro Bowl tight end’s presence.
12. The Ravens have consistently won at a high rate when Jackson is healthy, but Sunday’s performance was as impressive as any victory they’ve had since early in the 2021 season. Beating the Bengals without multiple starters reflects favorably on Baltimore’s toughness and depth. At 0-2, Cincinnati better regroup quickly.