CINCINNATI — Joe Flacco prefers a high-scoring game with a lot of touchdowns. Given the state of his back and the status of his defense, he wasn’t going to complain about how the Ravens won their opener.
This one was old-style.
The Ravens picked off Andy Dalton four times and forced him to fumble away another opportunity Sunday in a 20-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that was as basic as it gets. Baltimore won it with defense.
“I mean, it’s not that fun,” Flacco said . “I’d rather throw for 350 yards and win 42-0, But it’s fun to win.”
It was no fun for the Bengals, who were shut out in their home opener for the first time in history. They also were shut out 10-0 in Denver during their 1979 opening game.
The Ravens’ rebuilt defense got into Dalton’s head. He threw three interceptions in the first half, two of them tipped. The other one was forced into double coverage in the end zone. The Ravens scored a pair of touchdowns within a 24-second span to take control.
“I know the type of player I can be,” Dalton said. “I can’t let this affect the next one.”
After missing the playoffs for the third time in four years, the Ravens set about remaking their defense through free agency and the draft. They got results right away. Dalton was under constant pressure and got sacked five times in addition to his five turnovers.
“I like to see touchdowns, but if we’ve got to play lights-out defense, that’s what we’re going to do,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had a pair of sacks and tipped a pass that was picked off.
The Ravens essentially wrapped it up with a 17-play drive in the third quarter that lasted 9 minutes, 38 seconds and was extended by three Bengals penalties — unnecessary roughness, pass interference and holding.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in such a disappointing football game,” Lewis said.
Some takeaways from the Ravens’ third season-opening shutout in their history.
FLACCO’S FINE: The 10th-year quarterback missed all of training camp and the preseason because of a bad back. He looked rusty on a couple of throws, but got through it without issue. Flacco finished 9 of 17 for 121 yards with one sack, a touchdown and an interception.
“I felt good,” he said. “My back didn’t take anything, really. My chin did on one of those play-action plays down on the goal line.”
DEFENSE DOMINATES: The Ravens kept tackle Brandon Williams with a $52.5 million contract and signed free agent defensive backs Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr through free agency. Carr had the first of the four interceptions as the offseason emphasis paid off. The Bengals managed only 221 yards, including 77 rushing.
“They have a great front four,” Bengals receiver A.J. Green said. “They got a lot of pressure on Andy today.”
RUN GAME: In addition to the defense, the Ravens aimed to upgrade the running game, which has struggled the last two years. All the yards on the 17-play drive came on the ground. The Ravens finished with 157 yards rushing, including 80 by Terrance West and 71 by Javorius Allen. Danny Woodhead, who was expected to fill a major role, hurt his left hamstring on the Ravens’ opening drive and didn’t return.
DALTON’S DREADFUL DAY: The Ravens have a history of tormenting Dalton. He’s thrown four interceptions only one other time during his seven-year career, against the Ravens in 2013. He’s thrown three interceptions in a game nine times, four of them against Baltimore. Dalton fell to 6-6 career against Baltimore with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His passer rating of 28.4 was the second lowest of his career. Last season, he threw only eight interceptions in 16 games; he’s halfway to that total already.
WOEFUL LINE: The Bengals went with younger player on the offensive line, and they struggled. Left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, right tackle Jake Fisher and right guard Trey Hopkins have 19 combined NFL starts. Hopkins hurt his left knee late in the first half.
Asked to assess the line’s performance, Ogbuehi said, “Not good at all. This offense goes off us. We have to be better.”