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February 21, 2024

Ravens soar in opener but key injuries sour triumph

By JOSEPH RAINBOLT | September 15, 2023



The Ravens won their home opener in convincing fashion, but at what cost? The News-Letter writer Joseph Rainbolt explores.

The Baltimore Ravens had a convincing win over the Houston Texans in Week 1 of the NFL season. A slow, closely fought first half gave way to a second half that was all Ravens. Yet the victory was bittersweet, as the Ravens now find themselves battling an array of injuries threatening their young season. Here's a breakdown of Week 1 and what the season ahead holds.

Expected dominance

The Ravens were regarded as a superior team to the Texans and came into Week 1 as 9.5-point favorites. The Ravens backed up those expectations by delivering a 25–9 win, anchored by a resolute defensive performance.

The Ravens' offense faltered in the first half with several short drives and an early interception, delivering a lone touchdown late in the first quarter. However, the offense came to life in the second half with a 15-point third quarter. Lamar Jackson had an efficient but modest game with 207 all-purpose yards while completing 17 of his 22 passes.

The star of the Ravens' opener was their defense. They imposed their will on the Texans with five sacks and a strong performance in both the passing and ground game. Texans quarterback CJ Stroud completed only 28 of his 44 pass attempts, and the Texans' running backs were held to 72 yards on 23 attempts. All around, the Ravens' defense was able to stifle the Texans' attack, limiting them to three field goals and no touchdowns.

New additions

In the 2023 off-season, the Ravens aggressively pursued wide receivers. They ended up bringing in three, with free agents Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor signing with the Ravens and drafting Zay Flowers from Boston College in the first round of the NFL draft. Odell Beckham Jr. contributed two receptions in the Week 1 win while Nelson Agholor remained on the bench. The standout, however, was first-round wide receiver Zay Flowers, who had an impressive debut, pulling in nine receptions for 78 yards.

Injury woes

The Ravens suffered several blows in the Sunday afternoon win over the Texans. Most notably, starting running back J.K. Dobbins sustained a torn Achilles just after halftime and will be out for the rest of the season. J.K. Dobbins has been prone to the injury bug in his career but, when healthy, has been one of the better running backs in the NFL. Backup running backs Gus Edwards and Justice Hill will now be responsible for carrying the workload out of the backfield for the Ravens as they attempt to fill J.K. Dobbins' shoes.

The Ravens also suffered notable injuries to their defense and offensive line. Starting safety Marcus Williams left the game in the second quarter and doctors are currently evaluating his shoulder, where he is feared to have torn a pectoral muscle.

Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley also left the game Sunday. He suffered a knee injury and is currently undergoing tests, although the injury did not appear serious. Fellow offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum left the game with an ankle injury and is considered questionable for the Ravens' Week 2 matchup against the Bengals.

A look ahead

The Ravens face the Cincinnati Bengals team next Sunday. The Bengals are a team with Super Bowl aspirations, led by star quarterback Joe Burrow, but were stunned in Week 1 by the Browns in a 24–3 rout. This is a key divisional matchup for the Ravens, who will look for a win to stay atop the AFC North.

The Ravens' foreseeable schedule is kind. After the Week 2 matchup against the Bengals, the Ravens do not face another 2023 playoff team until Week 9 against the Seahawks. Despite their unfortunate string of injuries, the Ravens remain strong contenders for the AFC North crown and with Lamar Jackson at the helm, they appear poised to be strong playoff contenders.

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