CINCINNATI — Baltimore’s rebuilt defense picked off Andy Dalton four times and forced him to fumble Sunday, making it easy for Joe Flacco in his return from a back injury as the Ravens pulled away to a 20-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Ravens (1-0) ended a five-game losing streak in Cincinnati by pressuring Dalton into matching his career high for interceptions, three of them in the first half. The Ravens got a pair of touchdowns 24 seconds apart late in the half to take control, with Jeremy Maclin scoring on a 48-yard run-and-catch.
The overriding question was how Flacco would hold up after missing all of camp and the preseason with a bad back. Baltimore’s 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.
The Bengals (0-1) had breakdowns everywhere as they were shut out in a season opener for the first time since 1979.
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.
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. He also threw into double coverage in the end zone, and C.J. Mosley picked it off. Dalton finished 16 of 31 for 170 yards and was sacked five times.
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.
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.
Ravens play at Cleveland. They’ve won three in a row against the Browns.
Bengals host Texans on Thursday night. Houston has won its last two and seven of eight against Cincinnati, including a pair of first-round playoff games.