Mike Preston: Titles aren’t won in Week 1, but Ravens’ victory over Jets provides relief and momentum


Ravens coach John Harbaugh is used to experiencing first game jitters, but the ones felt Sunday before Baltimore opened the 2022 season against the New York Jets were different.

Very different.

There was the usual nervousness about wanting to win the first game and start the season on the right foot, but the Ravens were also playing with quarterback Lamar Jackson, who just ended contract negotiations with the team on Friday, and against Joe Flacco, the quarterback who led them to a Super Bowl title in the 2012 season.

There was also the anxiety of seeing if their new training camp routine and practice schedule to limit contact after suffering a rash of injuries last year would translate to the regular season. And to top it all off, the Ravens had to travel to play the Jets as fans commemorated the 21st anniversary of 9/11, one of the worst attacks on American soil.

So, when the Ravens came away with a 24-9 victory before a crowd of 78,827 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Harbaugh and players exhaled deeply. Not only was it over, but they won convincingly after struggling in the first half.

They prevailed.

“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 said. “It was kind of a coming together, kind of a unifying type of a feeling, but we knew the enthusiasm, the emotion was going to be high.

“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 expect. After several star players suffered major injuries last season, Harbaugh opted to hold out those players in the team’s three preseason games. Some rust was expected, but conditions were made worse when Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters and starting running back J.K. Dobbins, both trying to come back from knee injuries, were scratched shortly before Sunday’s game and were held out along with Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

That’s an almost certain guarantee for a loss even against a sorry team like the Jets. It seemed that way for two quarters as the Ravens led only 10-3 at the half, but then Baltimore started to find a rhythm.

As usual, it starts with Jackson. He completed 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards in the first half but he looked so uncomfortable and missed easy throws. Worse yet, Jackson didn’t want to run, acting as if his legs were cement. That changed in the third when he started making plays in and out of the pocket with his feet.

He threw for only 213 yards but had touchdown passes of 25 and 17 yards to Devin Duvernay and a 55-yard bomb over the middle for a score to Rashod Bateman. The catch by Bateman put the Ravens ahead, 24-3, with 2:16 left in the third quarter.

“I feel like it was just us feeling it out, out there,” Jackson said. “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 some of the Ravens, there was some vindication. The receivers have been maligned all preseason about being one of the worst groups in the NFL, and the lack of a pass rush has been a point of contention for years. But on Sunday, the Ravens sacked Flacco three times and hit him on eight other occasions.

This isn’t to say the Ravens now have a receiving corps as deep as the “Greatest Show on Turf” of the former St. Louis Rams or have outside linebackers to rival former Ravens stars Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper.

But for one game, 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 said. “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 have a lot to work on, too. They had only 63 yards on 21 carries, and that’s not good enough to carry this offense. Flacco still threw for 307 yards and at times there were some glaring holes in coverage, especially out in the flats.

The offensive line was weak again and couldn’t’ move the opposition off the ball until the second half, but the offense should get better with the return of both Stanley and Dobbins.

But that’s all in the future; the good, the bad and the ugly. Coaches downplay the loss if they lose the opener, but it’s a huge momentum swing if you win. Teams have been building for moments like Sunday since they played the final game of last season.

The entire offseason and the NFL draft is centered around Sunday’s game. So are free-agent acquisitions like safety Marcus Williams, who had an interception. All the weight training and conditioning is geared toward the opener.

Harbaugh gambled and held out his starters just so the Ravens could win Sunday, and everything worked his way, which really does show the importance of Week 1 wins.

It’s great for release and relief because no one wants to carry that loser tag around for another week, not after thinking about it for months.

Week 2


Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM



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