The Baltimore Ravens starred in this version of “Hard Knocks,” punishing the New York Jets with plenty of them.
The Jets intrigued audiences in the preseason with their no-holds-barred, behind-the-scenes TV show, but it was the Ravens who grabbed the spotlight Monday night in East Rutherford, N.J., with a 10-9 victory. They held New York to 176 yards, six first downs, allowed Mark Sanchez just 74 yards passing and kept Rex Ryan’s crew out of the end zone.
“Anytime you challenge a warrior, a warrior is always going to respond,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said.
For those urging the Jets to put up or shut up, well, it was Baltimore that produced most of the highlights in a sloppy opener of New York’s new home. The $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium rocked with “J-E-T-S” chants, then the Ravens rocked Ryan’s defense with enough big plays to silence the crowd of 78,127 – if not the talkative coach and his players.
“They beat us in every statistical category there is except turnovers,” Ryan said.
And not even a 3-1 edge in that department could help the Jets.
“It became personal when the schedule came out,” Lewis added. “We knew the tradition and the respect that Rex wanted to bring to the Jets. The bottom line is: Let’s just play football. I tip my hat to my team.”
Billy Cundiff’s 25-yard field goal in the third quarter provided the winning points, with Anquan Boldin, Baltimore’s main offseason acquisition, gaining 65 yards on two passes against first-round draft pick Kyle Wilson. Boldin made the kind of impact the Ravens sought with seven receptions overall for 110 yards, at times toying with the Jets’ vaunted secondary.
So did tight end Todd Heap, who caught six passes from a cool Joe Flacco for 72 yards.
“I’m excited about our weapons,” coach John Harbaugh said.
The beginning was fiery, as expected, with Ray Rice and Shaun Ellis woofing at each other before kickoff. But it turned into a slopfest, as many of the openers were this weekend, with the Jets looking particularly undisciplined by drawing 14 penalties for 125 yards. They also were 1 for 11 on third downs.
New York’s six first downs tied a franchise-low set in 1976.
LaDainian Tomlinson gained 62 yards rushing in his Jets debut.
Chiefs 21, Chargers 14
Jamaal Charles’ 56-yard touchdown run and Dexter McCluster’s team-record 94-yard punt return gave Kansas City a two-touchdown lead and the Chiefs held San Diego on four downs inside the 6-yard line in the final minute to win at Kansas City, Mo.
Philip Rivers, who thoroughly outplayed Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, drove the Chargers to a first-and-goal from the 4. But a pass was incomplete, Darren Sproles lost 2 yards and another pass sailed high. Then with 39 seconds left, Rivers missed again. The rain-soaked crowd, which hadn’t seen the Chiefs win on Monday night in 10 years, erupted in cheers.
Rivers was 22 of 39 for 298 yards and two touchdowns, several times victimizing a young Chiefs secondary for long gains. Cassel, with a history of playing poorly against the Chargers, was 10 of 22 for 68 yards, including a 2-yard TD pass following a San Diego turnover.
After Kansas City’s first two possessions produced nothing, Charles, a 1,000-yard rusher who was beaten out in training camp by veteran Thomas Jones, broke through a hole and sped 56 yards with 37 seconds left in the first quarter to tie the game.
McCluster, a scatback who was a training camp sensation with his quickness and flair, took a San Diego punt in heavy rain in the second quarter and cut left. He sailed almost untouched down the sideline and got the only block he needed from Andy Studebaker in a 94-yard return that put KC on top 21-7 late in the half. The return broke Dante Hall’s team record by one yard.
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