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Ravens get early jump in AFC North race

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted Sept. 12, 2011 @ 7:01 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh took a grounded, respectful tone about Baltimore's 35-7 win vs. Pittsburgh on Sunday.

"The first game isn't going to be the end-all, be-all," he said. "It's not going to be the end of the season. We have 15 more games to run this thing out and see where we're at."

Of the Steelers, Harbaugh said: "That's a heck of a football team. I guarantee you, they will be back."

It is premature to write off Pittsburgh, certainly. But it's not premature to be convinced Baltimore again looks to have the ability to contend at the NFL's highest level. 

The PFW Spin

Even if you want to give the Steelers a mulligan for a seven-turnover performance, one that featured subpar play in all phases at times, tip your cap to the Ravens for running away with the game. If Baltimore plays below-average, who knows? Perhaps we're talking about the Steelers' resiliency and the Ravens' inability to beat Pittsburgh.

Or maybe not. There was probably no beating the Ravens on Sunday. Their running game was outstanding, with very good blocking and RB Ray Rice showing why he's one of the top all-around threats at his position with 107 rushing yards and 42 receiving yards. QB Joe Flacco threw three TD passes and was sacked once. Young TE Ed Dickson had a team-high five catches (on five targets) and a touchdown. His play, along with Dennis Pitta's contribution, gives Baltimore hope that it can replace the departed Todd Heap.

The defense was wonderful, too. ROLB Terrell Suggs had three sacks and forced a fumble that set up a one-yard TD run by Rice that gave Baltimore a 14-0 lead. FS Ed Reed intercepted two passes. And DT Haloti Ngata was exceptional too, bursting through the line, tackling RB Rashard Mendenhall and recovering a fumble on one drive and forcing a Ray Lewis interception with a strong pass rush on the next drive. When the Ravens' best defensive players play like that, Baltimore is going to be very tough to beat.

Will the Steelers bounce back in Week Two? You would have to like Pittsburgh's chances vs. visiting Seattle. But it's also clear the Steelers weren't close to beating the Ravens on Sunday, and Pittsburgh will have to step up its game to earn a series split in the rematch in Week Nine.

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