BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens successfully launched a new era, for Coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco.
The festive occasion was made complete by a few familiar friends: Rex Ryan and the Baltimore defense.
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Flacco ran for a 38-yard touchdown in his first NFL start, and the Ravens held the Cincinnati Bengals to 154 yards and eight first downs Sunday in a 17-10 victory.
"It's a thrill," Harbaugh said. "I'm appreciative of (owner) Steve Bisciotti, (general manager) Ozzie Newsome and the rest of the Ravens organization for giving a no-name a chance to be a head coach in this league. We have a long way to go, but this is a good start."
Thrust into a starting role because of a season-ending shoulder injury to Kyle Boller and Troy Smith's infected tonsils, Flacco deftly operated within the system of new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. The rookie went 15-for-29 for 129 yards and no interceptions, and his touchdown run put Baltimore (1-0) up 17-3 in the third quarter.
"This is just a beginning for Joe," Harbaugh said.
If Flacco was unnerved playing in his first NFL game, he sure didn't look like it.
"It's just football. It's a lot of fun, though, just like it's always been," said Flacco. "I think our offense was in control all day. And obviously we had a lot of help from our defense."
Ryan, retained as defensive coordinator when Harbaugh replaced Brian Billick, put together a game plan that rendered the Cincinnati offense helpless. Chris Perry gained 37 yards on 18 carries, and Carson Palmer was 10-for-25 for 99 yards and an interception.
Chad Ocho Cinco was held to one catch for 22 yards. He praised the blitz-oriented defense deployed by Ryan.
"Two thumbs up to him and what they did today. It was unbelievable, and I told him after the game," Ocho Cinco said. "I don't know what they were playing. That's some playground defense."
Cincinnati's lone touchdown came on a 65-yard fumble return by Johnathan Joseph. Palmer couldn't take the Bengals (0-1) closer than the Baltimore 17, and that drive ended with an interception.
"We got outplayed," he said. "It was just an ugly game offensively. When you score three points, it's never good. And our three points were on a two-minute drive. It's a sick feeling, and it's going to feel even sicker when we watch the film."
Flacco's touchdown run, which came 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 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. Perry ran into Haloti Ngata for a 1-yard loss, and Baltimore held the ball the rest of way.
Cincinnati's only points in the first half came on a 43-yard field goal by Shayne Graham with five seconds left that made it 10-3.
Ocho Cinco in name only
Chad Johnson has changed his name, but his jersey remained the same. The NFL decided against allowing the Bengals receiver to put the name "Ocho Cinco" on his jersey.
"While the NFL has recognized the legal name change of Chad Johnson to Chad Ocho Cinco, the league informed the Bengals today that certain issues remain to be resolved before Ocho Cinco will be permitted to wear his new surname on his jersey," the league said in a statement.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said, "He has a financial obligation to Reebok, which produces the jerseys available to fans. That has to be resolved before the on-field jersey can be changed.
"The same obligation exists for any player that changes his number or name."
Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters that the name change on the jersey would likely occur soon.
Ocho Cinco refused to address the NFL's ruling.
"I ain't worried about the name, man. We just lost the game," he said. "I ain't worried about that."