M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
You read correctly, the Baltimore Ravens (1-0) crushed the Kansas City Chiefs (0-1) in nearly every statistical category, but somehow allowed them to hang around until about two minutes left in the game.
The Ravens had more net yards (501 - 188), more first downs (32 - 11), better third down efficiency (58% - 20%). Yet, somehow, they were unable to put the visitors away until very late.
The Chiefs, coming off a 2-14 season, added key players on both sides of the ball; offensively - Matt Cassel, but he was unable to play on Sunday; defensively - former New England Patriot linebacker Mike Vrabel. However, the Chiefs lost one of their best players, and perhaps the best tight-end in football, Tony Gonzalez, to the Atlanta Falcons during the offseason.
The Ravens, looking to continue their strong 2008 campaign, started the game by dominating the Chiefs in the first quarter. Baltimore's new place kicker, Steven Hauschka connected for the first score of the game. Baltimore later added a touchdown pass, Joe Flacco connecting with Willis McGahee from three yards out. They took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter. Then, the tides quickly turned. Kansas City shut down the Ravens potent offense, nearly forcing a safety on three occasions (all on the same series). They were eventually able to block a punt deep in Ravens territory and recover the ball in the endzone for their first score.
Kansas City added another touchdown in the third quarter to grab their first lead of the game. This score, however, was setup via a Flacco interception, which was returned down the 6 yard line. Thus, both of the Chiefs' touchdowns were not entirely the fault of the Ravens' stout defense.
The contest then swayed back and forth until Baltimore was finally able to stop the Chiefs with under two minutes remaining, and then punching the ball in the end zone with just over a minute to play in the game. The last touchdown, although not really needed, simply added an additional score to solidify the Ravens' victory.
Kansas City played very well for a team on the road against one of the best teams in the league on Sunday afternoon. The only area where the Chiefs performed better than the Ravens on was turnovers. Kansas City did not turn the ball over once, while Baltimore committed the only miscues of the game coming via a Flacco interception and allowing their punt to be blocked. Additionally, Baltimore looked very sloppy, committing eight penalties (most of which coming in the first half).
However, for Ravens' fans, their offensive game was very encouraging. After each Kansas City score, Baltimore had the confidence that they could march down the field and answer back with a score of their own. No longer are the Ravens relying on their defense to make key plays for them. Their offense is able to perform consistently well. Having punting the ball only three times is evident as such. Joe Flacco eclipsed the 300-yard passing milestone for the first time in his young career while Ray Rice rushed for 108 yards on 19 carries. Rice nearly score late in the fourth quarter, but was pushed out of bounds at the one-yard line, setting up a Willis McGahee's second touchdown of the game.
Despite Kansas City scoring 24 points, the Ravens' defense was really only responsible for 10 of the points, as two of their touchdowns came via Baltimore offensive miscues.
Kansas City gets to host Oakland next week while the Ravens travel to San Diego and attempt LaDainian Tomlinson and the high-scoring Chargers' offense.