CINCINNATI — With Joe Flacco easing back in from a back injury, the Ravens went out and got a victory old-style.
Baltimore’s rebuilt defense picked off Andy Dalton four times and forced him to fumble Sunday, and the Ravens pulled away to a 20-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that reminded them of the days when they’d win games with a defense that got into quarterbacks’ heads.
“I like to see touchdowns, but if we’ve got to play lights-out defense, that’s what we’re going to do,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs , who had a pair of sacks and tipped a pass.
The Ravens pressured Dalton into matching his career high for interceptions , three of them in the first half. Two were tipped, and the other was a throw he forced into double coverage in the end zone that C.J. Mosley picked off.
The Ravens took control with a pair of touchdowns 24 seconds apart late in the half. Flacco saw the Bengals ready to blitz with no defender in the middle of the field, and he hit Jeremy Maclin in stride on a slant for a 48-yard catch-and-run.
Two plays later, Suggs batted Dalton’s pass high in the air and Lardarius Webb grabbed it. Terrance West’s 2-yard touchdown run made it 17-0.
The Ravens didn’t need anything else, given how the defense was dominating.
“Any time you get a shutout, it’s huge,” said safety Tony Jefferson, one of the new additions. “To do it today in the opener? Man!”
The Ravens’ overriding question was how Flacco would hold up after missing all of camp and the preseason with a bad back. The defense made sure he didn’t have to do much. Flacco was 9 of 17 for 121 yards with an interception against a defense missing suspended linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones.
“It was one of our old-fashioned games,” said Flacco , in his 10th season. “It reminded me of one of our games when I was a rookie.”
The Bengals had breakdowns everywhere as they were shut out in a season opener for the first time since 1979. They’d never been blanked in a home opener. The Bengals managed only 221 total yards and had nine penalties.
“This was as disappointing as it can be,” coach Marvin Lewis said.
Baltimore has tormented Dalton like few others. He’s had nine three-interception games during his career, four of them against Baltimore. His only other four-interception game also was against the Ravens in the 2013.
“It wasn’t confusing,” Dalton said. “I just didn’t play well.”
After missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, Baltimore put its emphasis on upgrading the defense. It paid off right away, with newcomer Brandon Carr getting the first interception .
Dalton was under heavy pressure behind Cincinnati’s inexperienced line and finished 16 of 31 for 170 yards and was sacked five times.
Shutout history: It was the Ravens’ third season-opening shutout. They also blanked Pittsburgh in 2000 and Tampa Bay in 2006, both on the road. The Bengals hadn’t been blanked in their season opener since 1979, when they lost at Denver 10-0. They hadn’t been shut out at Paul Brown Stadium since 2001 by the Bears.
Grind 'em down: The Ravens essentially put it away with a 17-play, 81-yard drive in the third quarter that lasted 9 minutes, 38 seconds and ended in a field goal. The drive included 14 runs for 54 yards, two incompletions and three penalties on the Bengals: unnecessary roughness, pass interference and defensive holding.
The Ravens rushed for 157 yards overall, including 90 by West and 71 by Javorius Allen.
“This was a game that running the ball turned out to be a key,” coach John Harbaugh said . “I thought we were really patient with it.”
Injuries: Ravens RB Danny Woodhead injured his left hamstring on the opening series and didn’t return, another setback for a depleted offense. LB Za’Darius Smith hurt his left knee in the second quarter and was helped off the field.
Bengals RG guard Trey Hopkins hurt his left knee late in the first half and didn’t return. DE Michael Johnson suffered a concussion on the final play of the first half and didn’t return.
Up next: The Ravens play at Cleveland. They’ve won three in a row against the Browns. The Bengals host Texans on Thursday night.