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(Sunday, September 11th)
Final Score: Baltimore 35, Pittsburgh 7
Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - Joe Flacco passed for 224 yards and three touchdowns and the swarming Ravens defense forced seven turnovers in a 35-7 rout of the Steelers on Sunday.
The 2011 season opener was a dream start for one team, and a nightmare for the other.
"That's pretty easy to assess, ladies and gentlemen," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "We got handled in all three phases of the game."
Indeed, the NFL's grittiest and most competitive division rivalry turned into something it hasn't been in four years: a blowout.
Baltimore scored more points against Pittsburgh than it ever has in 34 games in the regular season or playoffs, getting 21 of them from turnovers.
The Ravens intercepted Ben Roethlisberger three times and forced four fumbles in the game, building a 21-7 lead by halftime and keeping their foot on the pedal in a thrill-a-minute dismantling that looked nothing like the previous six regular season meetings that were all decided by four points or fewer.
The final turnover, on Roethlisberger's fumble late in the fourth quarter, led to Billy Cundiff's 30-yard field goal for the final margin.
The Ravens scored one more point than their previous record against the Steelers, which came in a 42-34 loss on October 5, 1997, and it was the first time the series turned into a real rout since a 38-7 Steelers win in Week 9 of the 2007 season.
"Satisfied? I hate that word," said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. "(But) it's a great victory. The whole thing about having ghost and demons and monkeys on your back, that's not real to us. It's a football game and every game is a new game."
Ray Rice rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown for the Ravens (1-0) while Flacco was 17-of-29 on his passes, connecting with Anquan Boldin, Ed Dickson and Rice for touchdowns.
Not that any of them needed to shine with a defense that barely allowed the Steelers (0-1) to breathe.
In addition to his three interceptions, Roethlisberger fumbled twice and was 22-of-41 for 280 yards and a touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders in his 100th NFL game. Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore also fumbled.
"We came into a tough place to play. They got after it, and we didn't play so well," said Roethlisberger. "We turned the ball over, which is [mostly] my fault. But it's the first game of the year. The season's not won or lost today, the division's not won or lost."
Ed Reed had two interceptions, extending his Ravens record to 56, and Ray Lewis also picked off Roethlisberger.
The Steelers offense looked uncommonly pourous, allowing Rice to break the 100-yard plateau for a second time -- he's the only rusher to do it even once in Pittsburgh's last 51 games.
"A great team victory," said Harbaugh, "and that's something we're proud of. That's a heck of a football team and I guarantee you they will be back."
The Ravens built a 21-7 lead by halftime, just like they did in the playoffs in January after a couple of smashmouth regular season squeakers. The Steelers rallied to win the postseason game, of course, and made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
But they had no such rebound Sunday.
Lardarius Webb returned the opening kickoff 37 yards and the Ravens scored in just three plays. Rice broke off runs of 36 and three yards before Flacco found Boldin in the left side of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown.
Boldin bobbled the ball as Bryant McFadden fell down, but held on for the 7-0 lead.
Terrell Suggs burst through the line and sacked Roethlisberger later in the first, forcing a fumble that Haloti Ngata recovered at the Pittsburgh 37 to set up another touchdown.
Rice, after he was ruled down in front of the goal line on an eight-yard rush, took it in from one yard on another carry to make it 14-0 inside two minutes.
The Steelers went 68 yards on the ensuing drive and Roethlisberger had lots of time to spot Sanders streaking across the back of the end zone for an 11-yard score.
Later, the Ravens converted three straight third downs on an 84-yard drive and scored on the fourth, with Rice catching a pass and diving inside the left pylon for an 11-yard touchdown and 21-7 halftime lead.
Keeping their foot on the pedal, the Ravens struck quickly in the second half after Ngata blew up a handoff between Roethlisberger and Mendenhall on the first play of the third quarter, leading to a fumble and eight more points.
Ed Dickson beat Troy Polamalu for an 11-yard touchdown catch on the next play, and punter Sam Koch scurried untouched into the left side of the end zone for a surprising two-point conversion and 29-7 lead.
Roethlisberger's pass on the first play of the next series was tipped and intercepted by Lewis, but the Ravens failed to convert a 4th-and-1. Big Ben was picked off again, however, when Reed stepped in front of a pass near the goal line.
The pick led to Billy Cundiff's 29-yard field goal for a 32-7 lead. Reed's second interception didn't lead to any points. Neither did Moore's fumble on a play Baltimore challenged to get the ruling.
"Hats off to those guys. They're still a great team and we know they'll bounce back," said Reed. "This is just Game 1. It's a long season. We know for a fact they'll bounce back. We just had a good Game 1."
Roethlisberger is 9-3 as a starter against the Ravens. Entering the game, he had thrown a career-best 158 straight regular season passes without an interception...Hines Ward had five catches for 67 yards and needs 66 yards to pass Don Maynard for 20th in NFL history...Tomlin lost for the first time in five season openers and fell to 7-4 vs. the Ravens...Flacco moved to 20-5 at home as a starter...Harbaugh is 4-0 in season openers and 3-6 against the Steelers...Ricky Williams and Lee Evans made their Ravens debuts. Williams carried 12 times for 63 yards but Evans didn't have a catch...Reed had an NFL- best eight interceptions last season...Suggs had three sacks to reach 71.5 for his career, passing Peter Boulware (70) for most sacks in Ravens history. Including the postseason, Suggs has 18.5 career sacks vs. Pittsburgh.
09/11 19:01:21 ET
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