The Baltimore Ravens were far from overpowering in their home opener. Compared to their first game, however, they looked positively Super.
Baltimore stumbled through a scoreless first half against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday before emerging with a 14-6 victory.
The day began with a pregame ceremony in which the Ravens and their fans celebrated last season's Super Bowl championship. It took until the second half for Baltimore (1-1) to show its potential to repeat.
The Ravens blanked Cleveland (0-2) over the final 30 minutes, allowing only five first downs and 85 yards.
"It's just another step toward where we want to be," said linebacker Daryl Smith, who replaced the retired Ray Lewis in the middle of the defense. "We still have a lot of work to do, and with each game and each week, the chemistry will be where we want it to be."
The Ravens made a vast improvement from Week 1, when they got blown out 49-27 at Denver.
Cleveland, on the other hand, failed to build upon its season-opening 23-10 home loss against Miami.
Five things we learned about the Ravens and Browns:
1. FLACCO CAN MULTI-TASK: After his wife gave birth to their second child around an hour before the opening kickoff, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco led his team to a much-needed victory. His numbers — 22 for 33, 211 yards and one touchdown — weren't stunning.
But the Super Bowl MVP did get a win. He directed a touchdown drive in the third quarter and threw a 5-yard TD pass to rookie Marlon Brown with 8:57 remaining.
"Anytime you have a child, it's one of your best days," Flacco said. "The game didn't go exactly how we wanted it to, but that's how we've won football games around here. Sometimes you have to do it in an ugly way."
Flacco planned to tell coach John Harbaugh shortly before the game that his wife was going into labor and he intended to leave. The quarterback ultimately decided against going through with the joke.
"I'm glad he didn't do it," Harbaugh said. "He would have had me, hook, line, sinker and in the boat."
2. WEEDEN HURTING: Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden's status is uncertain after he slammed his right thumb against the helmet of an onrushing lineman in the fourth quarter.
Weeden sprained his thumb and did not participate in the final series. By that time, he had already been sacked five times.
X-rays were negative, and the quarterback hopes the swelling will go down before next week's game against Minnesota.
"It's hard to figure out anything," Weeden said. "We'll know more (Monday)."
3. DEFENSE REBOUNDS: The Ravens came in with the 32nd-ranked defense in the NFL after being torched for 510 yards to Denver. This game was far more typical of a team that takes pride in its ability to smother the opposition's offense.
"After that game against Denver, we wanted to come back and show what we could do," tackle Haloti Ngata said. "It was a great effort all around."
Elvis Dumervil, who had his first sack with Baltimore, said, "We were just playing fundamental football. Great effort, great energy. There are some things we all still need to work on, but when the team doesn't give up a touchdown, that's a great bounce-back from the Broncos."
4. STILL WINLESS: Browns first-year coach Rob Chudzinski knew it was going to be difficult to rebuild the team, and he was right. The defense has been sound, but Cleveland has scored only one touchdown in two games.
"We're not going to accept where we are at," Chudzinski declared. "We are going to keep working, and keep getting better."
Running back Trent Richardson, who was limited to 58 yards in 18 carries, said: "I won't accept losing. I've never lost at any level. I will fight to do everything I can to turn this around, and I will take my teammates with me."
5. HOLD THE RICE: Ravens running back Ray Rice rushed for only 36 yards and sustained a strained left hip flexor in the fourth quarter.
Harbaugh said an MRI likely would not be performed, which is good news. But his status for Baltimore's upcoming home game against unbeaten Houston is up in the air.
Fortunately, the Ravens have second-year back Bernard Pierce, who scored Baltimore's first touchdown and ran for 57 yards.
"Bernard did a heck of a job, and he's a tremendous running back," Harbaugh said. "We believe in him."