One could argue that a factor in the Ravens’ 47-3 whipping of the Buffalo Bills in Sunday’s regular-season opener was the protection that quarterback Joe Flacco received in the pocket. He completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns and was sacked only once before he was pulled in the third quarter for rookie Lamar Jackson.
But that one sack continued to stand out to left guard Alex Lewis.
“There’s always room for improvement even if it is just one time,” he said Tuesday. “We want to eliminate that. We watched tape, and we want to firm up the pocket inside and protect from the inside out. And hopefully, he stays up the whole game.”
The sack credited to Buffalo rookie middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in the second quarter did not result in a loss of yardage, but Flacco accepted some of the blame for not gaining at least one yard on a scramble to avoid the sack.
“It’s kind of a shame that that goes on as a sack,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter to me, but those guys take pride in that. They did a great job, and I told them that. Even on some of the plays — we were able to extend a few plays, not necessarily get any big chunks, but I was able to stand back there and do those things because they were really holding guys up and doing a great job.”
Still, the play of the offensive line was encouraging. Right guard Marshal Yanda returned for the first time in almost a year and did not suffer a setback to his surgically-repaired left ankle or right shoulder. Lewis and center Matt Skura fared well in their starting debuts at their respective positions.
The focus now turns to the Cincinnati Bengals, who sacked Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck only twice in their 34-23 victory Sunday. But Cincinnati did register nine quarterback hits, which was five more than the Bills compiled against both Flacco and Jackson.
“We’ve got to protect Joe at all costs,” Skura said. “It’s another really good defensive front. So we’re going to have to be on our ‘A’ game as well. I think this past game really helped us figure out things — our strengths and our weaknesses and things we can get better in. So I think it’s going to be another really good test for us.”
The Bengals’ defensive front is anchored by defensive end Carlos Dunlap (second on the franchise’s all-time sacks list with 65½) and defensive tackle Geno Atkins (team leader in sacks in four of the past eight seasons), and both players will draw a certain amount of attention, Lewis said.
“They’re great pass rushers, and there’s a reason why their names are known,” he said. “It’s going to be a good contest for us up front, and it will really show us where we’re at.”