BALTIMORE — One game into the 2012 season, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco stated his case for a long-term, multi-million dollar contract.
Flacco was 21-for-29 and threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns in Baltimore’s 44-13 win over Cincinnati on Monday.
Following the game, coach John Harbaugh said it’s time for the Ravens’ front office to pony up some cash for Flacco, who’s in the final year of his rookie contract.
“Hey, pay him whatever he asks for,” Harbaugh said. “Pay the man.”
Flacco, in the room when Harbaugh said that, smiled and spoke up.
“Y’all heard that,” Flacco told the media.
Flacco led Baltimore’s uptempo offense to 430 total yards against a defense he had previously thrown 10 interceptions against during his career.
From the start of the game, Flacco commanded Baltimore’s offense up and down the field.
On the first play from scrimmage, Flacco faked a handoff to running back Ray Rice and launched the ball deep to receiver Torrey Smith for a 52-yard gain. Baltimore ultimately settled for a field goal on the drive, but went ahead 3-0.
The Ravens forced a three-and-out, and Flacco led the Ravens back down the field on a 12-play, 63-yard drive. Flacco had completions of 16 yards to receiver Jacoby Jones and 12 yards to tight end Dennis Pitta before Rice rumbled in for a touchdown from seven yards away to put the Ravens up 10-0.
A Mike Nugent field goal cut Baltimore’s lead to 10-3, but Flacco returned to the field and stepped on the gas pedal again. Operating out of the no-huddle, Flacco threw a ball 34 yards down the middle to receiver Anquan Boldin for a touchdown, that was upheld on an official review.
Cincinnati did its part to stay in the game early, cutting Baltimore’s lead to 17-10 at halftime thanks to a six-yard scamper by Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis with 18 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Bengals received the kickoff in the second half and moved to Baltimore’s 7-yard line. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton took the snap but couldn’t find anyone open, and tried to scramble to the end zone. He fell short at the 1-yard line, and the Bengals elected to kick a field goal.
That was the closest Cincinnati would get.
Flacco then engineered a nine-play, 89-yard drive that ended with a touchdown reception by Pitta. Pitta finished with a career-high 73 receiving yards.
Baltimore added a field goal on its next drive to go up 27-13.
“He’s a premier quarterback and I think he showed it,” Bengals safety Taylor Mays said. “He was poised and made all the big-time throws that a big-time quarterback makes.”
Flacco completed 12 of 15 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown in the first half to help give the Ravens a 17-10 lead at intermission. And Flacco continued to move the Ravens’ offense and score points in the second half.
“We know what we got in this guy,” Harbaugh said. “He’s won a lot of football games.”
Baltimore put the game away with an Ed Reed interception that he took back 34 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter, giving the Ravens a 34-13 cushion. Dalton overthrew tight end Jermaine Gresham on the play, and the ball landed in Reed’s arms. The 34 return yards gave Reed, who turns 34 on Tuesday, 1,497 for his career, which is an NFL record.
Once Reed picked the pass off, he said he knew he would score.
“I wasn’t going to let the O-linemen catch me,” Reed said. “That’s why I dove.”
Reed strained his hamstring diving into the end zone and had to visit the locker room following the touchdown. He didn’t return to the game but said the injury isn’t serious and that he could’ve played if the game had been closer at the time.
With the game out of hand by the fourth quarter, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tipped his hat to the way Baltimore performed in the season-opener.
“We got outplayed and we got outcoached,” Lewis said. We did things that were positive, but all in all I don’t think we played well enough to win in any phase. And that’s my job, to get us right.”
Notes: Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins recorded two sacks, the first time he’s done that in his career. … Left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who started every game for Baltimore in 2011, did not start Monday. Michael Oher started at left tackle, Ramon Harewood started at left guard and rookie Kelechi Osemele started at right tackle. … Rice’s touchdown in the first quarter was the 30th he’s scored in his career.