Ravens win defensive battle
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)
The Jets intrigued audiences in the preseason with their no-holds-barred, behind-the-scenes TV show, but it was the Ravens who grabbed the spotlight Monday night with a 10-9 victory. They held New York to 176 yards, six first downs, allowed Mark Sanchez just 74 yards passing and kept Rex Ryan's crew out of the end zone.
"Anytime you challenge a warrior, a warrior is always going to respond," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said.
For those urging the Jets to put up or shut up, well, it was Baltimore that produced most of the highlights in a sloppy opener of New York's new home. The $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium rocked with J-E-T-S chants, then the Ravens rocked Ryan's defense with enough big plays to silence the crowd of 78,127 — if not the talkative coach and his players.
"They beat us in every statistical category there is except turnovers," Ryan said.
And not even a 3-1 edge in that department could help the Jets.
"It became personal when the schedule came out," Lewis added. "We knew the tradition and the respect that Rex wanted to bring to the Jets. The bottom line is: Let's just play football. I tip my hat to my team."
Billy Cundiff's 25-yard field goal in the third quarter provided the winning points, with Anquan Boldin, Baltimore's main offseason acquisition, gaining 65 yards on two passes against first-round draft pick Kyle Wilson. Boldin made the kind of impact the Ravens sought with seven receptions overall for 110 yards, at times toying with the Jets' vaunted secondary.
The beginning was fiery, as expected, with Ray Rice and Shaun Ellis woofing at each other before kickoff. But it turned into a slopfest, as many of the openers were this weekend, with the Jets looking particularly undisciplined by drawing 14 penalties for 125 yards. They also were 1 for 11 on third downs.
New York's six first downs tied a franchise-low set in 1976.
"We weren't at our best today," Ryan said, "but that's a credit to the Ravens."
New York's usually fierce defense sacked Flacco on Baltimore's first offensive play, forcing a fumble recovered by Sione Pouha. The Ravens' equally intense D held firm, and Nick Folk kicked a 23-yard field goal.
Pouha grabbed another fumble later in the quarter, by Willis McGahee, and Flacco was picked off by Antonio Cromartie on a sideline pass at the New York 3. The cornerback, acquired in a trade with San Diego to further bolster a secondary that features All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis, got a terrific block from his partner on a 66-yard runback to the Baltimore 31.
Two plays later, Shonn Greene lost the ball — he touched it only one more time the rest of the night and dropped a pass — and Baltimore embarked on an impressive 11-play, 76-yard drive for a 7-6 halftime lead. Of course, it was aided by Jets mistakes, the worst of which were Braylon Edwards — a wide receiver, of all things — running into Cundiff on a field goal attempt, giving the Ravens a first down to prolong the possession, and rookie Wilson's pass interference on T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the end zone.
McGahee scored from the 1 with 6 seconds left, but New York wasn't done committing penalties. The Jets were offside on the extra point and had 10 penalties for 100 yards in the opening half.
They weren't any more efficient in the second half. But they did get Folk's 48-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 10-9. Even then, however, they wasted a 22-yard punt return by Jim Leonhard to the Baltimore 35.
Cromartie's debut as a Jet was spotty, at best. Like Wilson, he was beaten several times by Boldin as the Ravens usually avoided Revis, even though the Jets' star cornerback missed the entire preseason in a holdout.
"I told him that the beast he created, he's got to deal with," the Ravens' Terrell Suggs said of Ryan, who was Baltimore's defensive coordinator before joining the Jets. "All respect to him. I love him with all my heart, but they got to deal with us this year.
"We showed who the No. 1 defense is. He knows the caliber of players in here. He was just trying to fire up his team. You have to commend the man for that. He wanted them ready to fight and they were ready. It's just that the better team won."
Notes: LaDainian Tomlinson gained 62 yards rushing in his Jets debut, carrying the load after Greene was benched and looking good in spurts. ... New York lost defensive tackle Kris Jenkins to a first-quarter knee injury. ... Flacco finished 20 for 38 for 248 yards. Sanchez was 10 of 21. ... Baltimore rushed for only 49 yards, yet controlled the ball for nearly 38 minutes.