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It's OK To Be Excited About Ravens' Win, But Don't Lose Perspective

September 11, 2017
I understand why you're excited. It might end up that you have every right to be excited.  

For many fans, the Ravens' 20-0 season-opening win on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals Sept. 10 proved the hype surrounding the team's defense was justified. If you were among those who bought into the idea that this unit could rival the 2000 defense for being the best in franchise history, you likely feel as vindicated as a Dashboard Confessional song at this point. 

Why shouldn't you? Playing in a stadium where they hadn't won since the 2011 season (five consecutive losses), all the Ravens managed to do was rack up five turnovers, five sacks, seven tackles for loss, eight pass breakups and three additional quarterback hits. They did it all while pitching their first shutout in eight years. 

In doing so, the Ravens' offense was asked to do very little to back up such a brilliant performance. It felt so much like a win from the 2000 campaign that I half-expected former head coach Brian Billick to be caught screaming like a banshee after the victory. 

Hell, the guy who wore No. 55 for the Ravens Sunday was so dominant he looked like the guy who used to wear No. 55 in Baltimore -- Terrell Suggs. The guy who played on Sunday was like a spitting image of that guy Suggs. It was remarkable. 

So that's that. The Ravens' defense is exactly as dominant as you thought they were and everything is perfect and let's get the purple Christmas lights up now in preparation for Festivus, right? 

You won't be surprised to learn that I'm the guy who's ready to throw just a bit of cold water on this city after such a win. But let me be clear: winning any NFL game by a final score of 20-0 is remarkable. That type of performance is both rare in this league and extremely difficult to pull off. The Ravens deserve credit for their defensive preparation and execution in blanking Cincinnati. The Bengals' offensive line (having lost Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler) certainly conspired to make things easier for the Ravens, but it doesn't make defensive coordinator Dean Pees' unit's performance any less brilliant. 

Of course, that's what the Ravens have to get from their defense considering how they went about their offseason and the low expectations for their offense. But they got exactly the performance they wanted, and that performance should be applauded. 

But it is, indeed, one game. And one game against a team that appeared as though they may be worse than we realized. And a team with a patchwork offensive line. That doesn't dismiss what the Ravens did, it's just necessary context in terms of figuring out what they can ultimately be. 

More than likely, the Ravens won't be able to win the AFC North or compete for a championship if they don't throw the ball downfield a little more than they did in Week 1. More than likely, they're not going to be able to come away with five game-altering turnovers like they did in Week 1. More than likely, things won't be as simple for the Ravens as they were in Week 1. 

Many of the questions we had about the Ravens remain relevant despite a lopsided season-opening victory. How healthy is quarterback Joe Flacco? Does he have rhythm with his receivers? Can the Ravens consistently run the ball? Will the offensive line hold up? Are any of the young pass rushers going to establish themselves as true difference-makers? (linebacker Za'Darius Smith looked good before leaving the game with an injury). 

They were all relevant questions coming into Week 1 and they remain relevant after. For as well as the Ravens played, the roadmap to 10-or-more wins still likely requires encouraging answers to the majority of them. The Ravens didn't need all of that to come together for their first game, but they'll need it throughout the course of 16 games. 

Unless, of course, their defense just truly is as dominant as it appeared it could be. If the Ravens can get the same number of game-altering plays each week, they'll win games even if they don't address their other issues. I have my doubts, but it's possible we're just watching the dawn of a historically great defensive unit. 

But for now, it's one game. One game does not a trend make. But with a favorable schedule to start the season, the possibility of the Ravens being 3-0 before their first showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers looks a whole lot more likely. And after that fourth game, we should be in a better place to make grand statements about whether this unit is as special as we think it might be today. 

Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox