After an impromptu bye week caused by Hurricane Ike, the Ravens bounced back in a big way yesterday, beating the Cleveland Browns (0-3) 28-10.
The Ravens are now 2-0 and have sole possession of first place as they prepare to travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers next Monday night.
The Ravens used the same game plan that worked against the Bengals in week 1. Play strong defense and control the game clock. And it worked again. The Ravens rushed for 153 yards, intercepted Derek Anderson 3 times and collected 4 sacks.
Le'Ron McClain lead the way again, rushing for 66 yards and 2 TD's. McGahee, playing for the first time this season, rushed for 64 yards and 1 score. It appears that the Ravens will use McGahee early and then turn to McClain to wear down the defense when they need to run out the game clock.
That appears to be a smart strategy since Flacco had his ups and downs. On the positive side, he completed 68% of his passes, but only made 19 attempts for 129 yards and had 2 INT's. He threw a bad interception early on over the middle, and his second pick came on a flee-flicker that didn't have much hope from the start. Had the play developed a bit faster, Flacco could have recorded the first passing TD of his career, but by the time the ball reached the Ravens receiver, two Browns defenders had arrived, intercepting the ball in the endzone.
That said, Flacco still looks smooth and calm in the pocker, side-stepping rushes, making check-downs and throwing the ball away when there was nothing available. It will be fun to watch Flacco improve as Harbaugh and Cameron have more faith in him to win games. But right now the Ravens' bread and butter is no different than it was in 2000-2006. Play good defense and run the ball.
And boy did they play good defense. Ray Lewis delivered a highlight-reel-worthy hit on Kellen Winslow, Jr. which caused the game's first INT. Ed Reed ran his INT back for a touchdown. And Terrell Suggs recorded 2 sacks.
The Ravens pass-rush appears to have returned after a season off in 2007, as they pressured Derek Anderson all day, keeping him off balance like they did Carson Palmer in week 1. With the Browns slow start, it looks like Anderson's days are numbered as the starter in Cleveland with first round draft pick Brady Quinn sitting on the sidelines.
Next week's game against the Steelers is shaping up to be a big one, with Pittsburgh having lost to the Eagles to fall to 2-1. It will also be the Ravens first game on the road after their trip to Houston was cancelled, so it'll be interesting watch Flacco perform on the road.
But the 2008 season looks to be more interesting that originally thought. And if the Ravens can stay healthy, the sky is the limit.