Five days after dropping their first game of the season, the Baltimore Ravens risk falling into an early 0-2 hole in the AFC North. But football seems to be the least of Baltimore’s problems.
Running back Ray Rice was supposed to return from his two-game suspension in Week Three, but one day after Baltimore fell to Cincinnati 23-16 TMZ released video showing Rice’s assault on his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator. In response to the graphic clip, the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract and the NFL made his suspension indefinite.
But now the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell are embroiled in a scandal following a report from the Associated Press Wednesday that stated law enforcement sent a copy of the video to the league office in April. Goodell said in an interview with “CBS This Morning” that the league tried to obtain the video taken inside the elevator but law enforcement did not send it, and that no executive had watched the clip before Rice’s first suspension was handed down.
The Ravens have also had to answer questions about how they handled the scandal. Head coach John Harbaugh said it was necessary for the team to cut Rice after seeing the video. General manager Ozzie Newsome said that Rice told him exactly what transpired during the assault and did not lie, while team owner Steve Biscotti told fans and sponsors that he and his organization should have investigated the matter more thoroughly.
With the controversy continuing to swirl and new revelations coming every day, the Ravens will try to keep their gaze on the visiting and improved Pittsburgh Steelers in the season’s first Thursday night game.
Baltimore fell behind 15-0 at halftime to the Bengals, but came back with a 13-yard touchdown run from Justin Forsett and receiver Steve Smith hauling in an 80-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco.
But the Ravens defense surrendered a 77-yard touchdown to Bengals receiver A.J. Green with five minutes left, and Flacco failed to generate another touchdown drive.
Still the Ravens offense looked far sharper that last year’s No. 29 ranked squad. They put up 423 total yards, and went 8-for-17 on third down. However Flacco was sacked three times, which could be an issue going forward.
Baltimore’s defense also played well before giving up Green’s scorching play. The Bengals could only score on field goals until the fourth quarter, and went 4-for-14 on third down; though Baltimore failed to generate any turnovers to create more opportunities for Flacco and the offense.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is seeking its first 2-0 start since 2010, the last time they reached the Super Bowl.
The Steelers looked like a team of two halves in their 30-27 win over Cleveland. They lit up the Browns 27-3 in the first half, scoring on four of their first five drives including touchdown runs by LeGarrette Blount and Le’Veon Bell, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hitting Antonio Brown for a 35-yard score.
But in the second half, Pittsburgh punted on five straight drives, and the defense allowed 183 total rushing yards to let Cleveland tie 27-27. The Steelers eventually broke through with a 41-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham as time expired.
Overall the Steelers displayed a very balanced and dangerous attack. Roethlisberger went 23-for-34 for 365 yards and one touchdown, Brown totaled five catches for 116 yards and Bell notched 109 yards on 21 carries. Last year the Steelers were 16 th in the league with 23.7 points per game, and didn’t score 30 points in a game until Week 9’s 51-31 loss to New England.
The Pittsburgh offense could be a little thin on Thursday though, with reserve rookie running back Dri Archer ruled out with an ankle injury and receiver Lance Moore also out with a bad groin.
For Baltimore, cornerback Ladarius Webb is listed as questionable for the second straight week with a lower back injury. Webb missed the season opener against Cincinnati, and last season came up with 22 passes defended, the best mark in the NFL.
Start Time: 8:30 p.m. EST
Betting Odds: Baltimore -3
Over/Under: 44.5 points
TV Channel: CBS and NFL Network will have a simulcast
Live Online Stream: A live online stream is available at NFL Network here
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Baltimore 20