BALTIMORE - The rookie head coach made all the right moves, and the first-year quarterback displayed remarkable footwork and poise in his initial NFL start.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, right, is sacked by Baltimore Ravens Justin Bannan during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, in Baltimore.
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Most of all, though, the Baltimore Ravens received a typically solid performance from their defense in defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 17-10 Sunday.
The Ravens (1-0) forced two turnovers and limited the Bengals (0-1) to 154 yards to make John Harbaugh a winner in his debut as an NFL coach. Cincinnati's Carson Palmer was 10-for-25 for 99 yards, and his interception ended the Bengals' deepest foray into Baltimore territory — except for a 65-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Johnathan Joseph.
Palmer was outplayed by Ravens rookie Joe Flacco, forced into the starting role because of a season-ending shoulder injury to Kyle Boller and Troy Smith's infected tonsils. Flacco ran for a 38-yard touchdown to put Baltimore up 17-3 in the third quarter and deftly operated within the careful attack deployed by Harbaugh and new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
Flacco went 15-for-29 for 129 yards and no interceptions. The 6-foot-6 quarterback's 38-yard run, which came after he found no open receiver on a rollout to his right, was 13 yards farther than his longest run at the University of Delaware.
Baltimore's other touchdown came on a double reverse, a trick play that represented a marked departure from the conservative offense employed by Harbaugh predecessor, Brian Billick.
After Joseph's return of a fumble by rookie Ray Rice made it 17-10 with 10:15 left, the Bengals faced a fourth-and-1 at the Baltimore 25. Chris Perry ran into Haloti Ngata for a 1-yard loss, and Baltimore held the ball the rest of way.
Bengals receiver Chad Ocho Cinco, who legally changed his name from Chad Johnson, was forced by the NFL to wear Johnson on his jersey "because certain issues need to be resolved," the league said in a statement. Ocho Cinco finished with one catch for 22 yards.
Cincinnati managed only 84 yards in offense in the first half, getting its only points on a 43-yard field goal by Shayne Graham with five seconds left to close to 10-3.
Ravens tight end Todd Heap lost a fumble on the second play from scrimmage, but Cincinnati failed to capitalize. On the Bengals' second series, a pass deflected off the hands of Ocho Cinco was tipped and intercepted by Chris McAlister.
The Ravens then moved 78 yards, the last 42 on the surprising double reverse. After Flacco handed off to Derrick Mason, who was running around right end, Mason flipped the ball to Mark Clayton running the other way. Clayton weaved into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Late in the half, McAlister recovered a fumble by Perry at the Cincinnati 40. Baltimore moved to the 3, and after Heap dropped a pass in the end zone, Matt Stover kicked a field goal.