Two Big Surprises In Baltimore…And One Was Actually Good

Even Nostradamus couldn’t have seen that coming.

I don’t mean the loss – after all, the Ravens have won 19 of their last 20 at home and will probably be favored in every game at M & T Bank Stadium this season.  And I don’t even mean the margin of defeat since it was a four point game in the third quarter before turnovers helped turn it into a blowout.

What was shocking wasn’t what happened…

“It was how Baltimore won the football game,” said my radio partner Dave Lapham.  “I mean, Sam Koch only punted the ball twice – once in the first half and once in the second half.  You have got to make more stops than that.  Defensively they got shredded – there’s no other way to put it.  There’s not one thing they did defensively that spells winning football.  Mike Zimmer has to be livid, and Marvin Lewis had to be absolutely shocked that his team played the way it did.”

The Ravens finished with 430 yards on 58 plays – an average of 7.4 yards every time they snapped the football.  And if Joe Flacco were a stock, I’d be investing every penny.  Flacco is the only quarterback in NFL history to take his team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons and yet, he has never gone to a Pro Bowl.  After throwing for 299 yards on opening night and posting a quarterback rating of 128.4, it looks like the 27-year-old could be on his way to a monster season.

“I think it could be his year,” said Lapham.  “He obviously has a very, very strong throwing arm and he was on-point on Monday night.  His accuracy was unbelievable.  He threw the ball in very tight windows and a lot of times he did it just with his arm strength when he couldn’t set his feet and step into the throw.  He’s a big, strong guy with a cannon hanging off of that right shoulder and was amazing against the Bengals on Monday night.”

But as bad as the Bengals defense looked in the opener, there was a pleasant surprise on the other side of the ball:  The patched-up offensive line featuring a just-signed center in Jeff Faine actually functioned pretty well in one of the most difficult environments in sports.

“I think it was a bright spot,” said Lapham.  “If I had to pick a position group that played the best, it was the offensive line.  I thought that Andre Smith was a bull at the right tackle position…I thought that Jeff Faine did a remarkable job in the middle…I thought that Kevin Zeitler held up very well as a rookie…Clint Boling did the job at left guard…and Andrew Whitworth was his solid self.  I think that is the one block in the foundation that you can build off of.”

Faine’s performance was especially encouraging when you consider that it came after five practices and no preseason games.

“I felt good about my play and I didn’t feel rusty at all,” Jeff told me.  “It was the first game that I’ve played since last season and it felt good to get back out there.  I thought our communication was good.  There were a couple of things that we missed assignment-wise that led to a couple of big hits on Andy, but we’ll fix that.

“He’s a veteran and knows what to do,” said rookie Kevin Zeitler.  “It was very impressive that he was able to learn the whole offense in 12 days.”

“I think we did some pretty good things,” said Andre Smith.  “Being a brand new unit with a new middle between me and Whit, I felt like we did a good job of communicating what we had to do.  Jeff did a great job of calling out things, but we can still execute better as a unit.”

That goes for the entire team.

The Cleveland Browns are coming to town on Sunday after nearly upsetting Philadelphia in their season opener.  There’s no time for the Bengals to mourn their dreadful performance on Monday night.

“The won/loss column is what you look at in this league,” said Zeitler.  “We have to improve by next week.”

********

I enjoyed a college reunion of sorts in the season opener.

Mike Tirico called the game on ESPN and Ian Eagle did the play-by-play of the national radio broadcast.  All three of us graduated from Syracuse University between 1985 and 1990 and worked at student radio station WAER.  Additionally, my broadcast partner Dave Lapham and Ravens color analyst Qadry Ismail both played football at the ‘Cuse.

That’s five announcers from one school on the same Monday Night Football game (Bengals.com editor Geoff Hobson is also Syracuse alum).

I don’t think Nostradamus could have seen that coming either.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.hoard.1

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