• SI.com's Don Banks talks about the Ravens' "complete and unexpected domination" against the Steelers.
"That's the hurdle we've got to clear, and that's the history we're going to have to overcome,'' Ravens running back Ray Rice told me in early August, addressing Baltimore's Pittsburgh problem. "Maybe when we beat them, we won't just beat them. A win is a win. But if we make a statement, and beat them in a way that they know they were really beaten, I think that leaves a taste.''
Or maybe more accurately, given this smashmouth series, leaves a mark. As in a purple and black bruise. The Ravens needed a win, of course, but they needed the kind of win that exorcised a few demons. They needed to take chances on offense, rather than try to sit on three-point leads, and they needed those chances to pay off in a big way. On defense, they needed to take the ball away from Pittsburgh and frustrate Ben Roethlisberger, which is exactly what Baltimore's team-record-tying seven takeaways (three interceptions and four fumbles recovered) accomplished. Simply put, everything went as planned for the Ravens on this day, and everything went wrong for the Steelers and Roethlisberger, who had three interceptions, two fumbles lost, and absorbed four sacks.
• Peter King of SI.com writes about Ray Rice's play and evolving role in his Monday Morning Quarterback column.
When I visited Ravens camp in late July, there was a different feeling about Ray Rice entering his fourth year. For the last couple of years, it was Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and then Joe Flacco, and then anybody else on offense; that was the pecking order of franchise players once Jonathan Ogden left. Rice was creeping into the picture last year. This year, in relative importance with club officials, it seemed like Rice was on a level with the top defensive players. That's how highly he was regarded. And on the first weekend of the season, there were other players who played very well, including a couple who are teammates of Rice. But I thought Rice did something I simply would not see with these Pittsburgh Steelers -- physically impose his will on them on a few running plays. Last season, Pittsburgh was superb against the run, only twice allowing teams to exceed 100 yards (the Jets had 106, New England 103). On Sunday, Rice had 107, and the Ravens totaled 170. Only once in the last three years had a team run for so many on Pittsburgh.
The difference in this game was the Ravens didn't have Willis McGahee anymore, and Rice is now working as the short-yardage and goal-line back. Even though Ricky Williams got 12 carries Sunday, eight came in the fourth quarter, with Rice on the shelf to save further wear and tear. Rice was the every-down back when it counted, and it counted early: He started the game with a 36-yard sprint around left end and never stopped producing for three quarters.
Pittsburgh need not push the panic button yet. Yes, the Ravens are division favorites, but that doesn't mean the Steelers are out of the hunt. Barring injuries, both teams will make the playoffs, but the teams' roles have clearly reversed. Pittsburgh must catch up to the Ravens in the division for the first time in a long time.
• In an "NFL Breakdown" video, Andrew Perloff of SI.com discusses the factors that led to the Ravens' rout.
• CBSSports' Clark Judge mentions an interesting statistic about Rice and the Steelers defense in his "Week 1 Judgements" roundup.
This is all you need to know about how valuable Ray Rice is: Pittsburgh allowed only two 100-yard rushers in its last 51 starts, and both times that running back was Rice. He had 102 Sunday and 141 in 2009.
• In a separate column, Judge says the lopsided victory should get the critics off Joe Flacco's back.
He has been nothing short of consistent in his three years in the NFL. Not only did he reach the playoffs each season, he won at least once each season ... and always on the road.
But that wasn't enough because one thing he didn't do was beat the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger was in the lineup. Six times he tried, six times he failed -- including twice in the playoffs. And until that changed, Baltimore seemed doomed, destined to finish second to an opponent that wouldn't move out of Flacco's way.
Until now, that is.
• Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com also discusses Flacco's performance.
[Ben] Roethlisberger is usually the one grounding the Ravens with school-yard style scrambles, unscripted passing plays and -- most importantly -- victories over Pittsburgh's AFC North archrival. [Joe] Flacco is the one who had never beaten the Steelers when Roethlisberger was under center and -- pardon the pun -- spent an entire offseason catching flack because of it.
Talk about your role reversals.
Roethlisberger was mercilessly pummeled and tormented in Sunday's season-opener by a Ravens defense that produced a franchise-record seven turnovers. As for Flacco, he put the past to rest with a three-touchdown, zero-interception effort.
In Baltimore, the Steelers committed seven turnovers in a stunningly one-sided loss. Since 2008, every regular-season game between these teams had been decided in the final six minutes or overtime.
This time, it was such a laugher that, mad as they were, even the Steelers had a hard time keeping a straight face.
• According to ESPN.com's Stats & Info blog, Ed Reed's two-interception game puts him in historic company.
Ravens safety Ed Reed had his hand in the turnovers, picking off Ben Roethlisberger twice. It's Reed's 12th career multi-interception game, the third-most in the NFL dating back to 1960 behind Paul Krause's and Johnny Robinson's 16.
• Kansas.com's Bob Lutz speaks highly of the Ravens.
We don't get to talk defense enough in the NFL. Thank goodness for Baltimore, which limited Pittsburgh's running game to 66 yards and had three interceptions against Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens have an offense, too. This was a butt-kicking and Baltimore has a bunch of butt-kickers.
[Compiled by Dean Jones Jr.]Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun