OWINGS MILLS, Md. » The Baltimore Ravens’ upgraded offense almost certainly will play a role this season in helping the team attempt to stay on course for a third straight playoff appearance.
In the opener against the talkative New York Jets, however, it was the defense — as usual — that provided the key plays in a 10-9 victory.
With Ray Lewis leading the way Monday night, Baltimore did not allow a touchdown, limited the Jets to only six first downs and gave up a mere 74 yards passing.
"It was the best defensive performance I’ve seen here," coach John Harbaugh said yesterday.
Much of the talk surrounding the Ravens during the preseason centered on the enriched passing attack and the lack of depth in the defensive backfield.
Joe Flacco threw for 248 yards against New York, connecting with newcomer Anquan Boldin seven times, but it was the manner in which Baltimore defended the pass that really made the difference.
"Everyone wants to talk about the secondary. How’d they play?" Harbaugh said, pointedly.
Cornerbacks Chris Carr and Fabian Washington, backed by safeties Dawan Landry and Tom Zbikowski, allowed only 10 pass completions.
"I like the way our guys played technique on the back end," Harbaugh said.
Part of the credit goes to a pass rush headed by tackle Haloti Ngata and linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.
Ngata got a pivotal sack on a third and 4 with less than 5 minutes left, and it wasn’t until the final minute that Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez converted a third-down try (New York went 1-for-11).
"The D-line lived up to its billing," Harbaugh said. "Terrell Suggs just jumped off the field. Ray, his performance speaks for itself. You can name guy after guy. Haloti Ngata was dominant. … He just took over the game."
For 15 years, Lewis has let his play do the talking for him. But after hearing so much of Jets coach Rex Ryan in the weeks leading up to the game, Lewis blasted out a calculated retort a few days before the opening kickoff.
He registered four tackles and leveled Dustin Keller as the Jets receiver was poised to haul in a pass on a second-and-10 situation with 47 seconds to go.
"We had a good feel for them," Lewis said. "We knew Braylon (Edwards) is their deep guy. We also knew that Dustin Keller is their big-play guy. We tried to beat those guys up at the line and make their job hard. Eventually, the sacks came and we made Mark Sanchez run around. We had a great game plan and we executed."
Having won an emotional game against the Jets, the Ravens next face the Cincinnati Bengals on the road Sunday in an AFC North matchup. And, Baltimore will be doing it with a short week of practice.
"Here we are, 5 1/2 days away from last night, and we’ve got to play the Cincinnati Bengals, the reigning division champs, at their place," Harbaugh noted. "It’s very difficult. But it doesn’t matter because that’s our challenge."
The one injury of note in Monday night’s game was to the shoulder of tight end Todd Heap. Harbaugh said Heap, who had six catches for 72 yards, should be able to participate in today’s practice.