Ravens coach John Harbaugh is used to experiencing first recreation jitters, however the ones felt Sunday earlier than Baltimore opened the 2022 season in opposition to the New York Jets have been totally different.
Very totally different.
There was the same old nervousness about desirous to win the primary recreation and begin the season on the best foot, however the Ravens have been additionally enjoying with quarterback Lamar Jackson, who simply ended contract negotiations with the crew on Friday, and in opposition to Joe Flacco, the quarterback who led them to a Super Bowl title within the 2012 season.
There was additionally the nervousness of seeing if their new coaching camp routine and follow schedule to restrict contact after struggling a rash of accidents final yr would translate to the common season. And to prime all of it off, the Ravens needed to journey to play the Jets as followers commemorated the twenty first anniversary of 9/11, one of many worst assaults on American soil.
So, when the Ravens got here away with a 24-9 victory earlier than a crowd of 78,827 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Harbaugh and gamers exhaled deeply. Not solely was it over, however they received convincingly after struggling within the first half.
“They were so much fun on the sideline, the people holding the [American] flag, mostly in their Jets’ stuff, but it was just neat,” Harbaugh stated. “It was type of a coming collectively, type of a unifying sort of a sense, however we knew the keenness, the emotion was going to be excessive.
“We knew the Jets were going to be very physical, very tough, very emotional; that’s how they play. They fly around, they hit you, they’re a tough, physical team. They play very hard; they’re very well-coached. So, we were hoping to weather that first quarter as much as we could.”
Few knew what to anticipate. After a number of star gamers suffered main accidents final season, Harbaugh opted to carry out these gamers within the crew’s three preseason video games. Some rust was anticipated, however situations have been made worse when Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters and beginning operating again J.Okay. Dobbins, each attempting to come back again from knee accidents, have been scratched shortly earlier than Sunday’s recreation and have been held out together with Pro Bowl left sort out Ronnie Stanley.
That’s an nearly sure assure for a loss even in opposition to a sorry crew just like the Jets. It appeared that means for 2 quarters because the Ravens led solely 10-3 on the half, however then Baltimore began to discover a rhythm.
As common, it begins with Jackson. He accomplished 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards within the first half however he appeared so uncomfortable and missed simple throws. Worse but, Jackson didn’t need to run, performing as if his legs have been cement. That modified within the third when he began making performs out and in of the pocket along with his ft.
He threw for under 213 yards however had landing passes of 25 and 17 yards to Devin Duvernay and a 55-yard bomb over the center for a rating to Rashod Bateman. The catch by Bateman put the Ravens forward, 24-3, with 2:16 left within the third quarter.
“I feel like it was just us feeling it out, out there,” Jackson stated. “We didn’t play in the preseason. I haven’t played in like six games last year — not much really. We’re just getting back into the swing of things. We played better, we came out better in the second half and started putting points on the board.”
For among the Ravens, there was some vindication. The receivers have been maligned all preseason about being one of many worst teams within the NFL, and the shortage of a go rush has been a degree of rivalry for years. But on Sunday, the Ravens sacked Flacco 3 times and hit him on eight different events.
This isn’t to say the Ravens now have a receiving corps as deep because the “Greatest Show on Turf” of the previous St. Louis Rams or have exterior linebackers to rival former Ravens stars Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper.
But for one recreation, they stepped up and proved themselves.
“It felt good to get in the game mode, get things going, show the work I’ve put in this offseason and training camp,” Duvernay stated. “I just went up and tried to make a play. We’ve been doing it all camp. We don’t really listen to what the critics say. We all know what we can do. We all know our abilities, our athleticism, our speed.”
The Ravens know they’ve so much to work on, too. They had solely 63 yards on 21 carries, and that’s not ok to hold this offense. Flacco nonetheless threw for 307 yards and at occasions there have been some obtrusive holes in protection, particularly out within the flats.
The offensive line was weak once more and couldn’t’ transfer the opposition off the ball till the second half, however the offense ought to get higher with the return of each Stanley and Dobbins.
But that’s all sooner or later; the great, the dangerous and the ugly. Coaches downplay the loss in the event that they lose the opener, nevertheless it’s an enormous momentum swing when you win. Teams have been constructing for moments like Sunday since they performed the ultimate recreation of final season.
The total offseason and the NFL draft is centered round Sunday’s recreation. So are free-agent acquisitions like security Marcus Williams, who had an interception. All the load coaching and conditioning is geared towards the opener.
Harbaugh gambled and held out his starters simply so the Ravens may win Sunday, and the whole lot labored his means, which actually does present the significance of Week 1 wins.
It’s nice for launch and aid as a result of nobody desires to hold that loser tag round for an additional week, not after eager about it for months.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
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