Attention Greater Baltimore sporting goods retailers: you might want to increase your Joe Flacco jersey sales orders. The rookie quarterback didn't complete a pass longer than 15 yards, but he made a powerful love connection with the fans at M&T Bank Stadium with his poised play in the Ravens' 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday. The "Let's go, Flacco!" cheer could be heard throughout the game, but when the Ravens' first round draft choice rumbled 38 yards for a third quarter touchdown, the crowd noise nearly drowned out the radio broadcast (so did my car horn honking). For all the fuss about the Flacco, though, the story of this game was told in the trenches.
Baltimore dominated the line of scrimmage so completely in the second half that the Ravens held the ball for 23:43 to the Bengals' 6:17. And that's not because of Cincy's quick strike offense; the results of the visitors' four second-half offensive possessions were: three and out, turnover on downs at the Ravens' 36 yard line, three and out, and turnover on downs at the Ravens' 26. Their only touchdown of the day came on a 65-yard fumble recovery by Johnathan Joseph. The next time the Bengals come to Baltimore, Marvin Lewis might want to remind his offense where the end zone is because the Cincinnati O hasn't scored a TD at M&T since 2006.
On offense, the Ravens stuck to a ground attack that churned out 226 yards on 46 carries. The sizzle came from Flacco's bootleg jaunt and a double-reverse by Mark Clayton that went for a 42 yard touchdown, but the steak was fullback Le'Ron McClain (19 carries for 86 yards and rookie tailback Ray Rice (22 for 64). Flacco was never sacked as he completed 15 of 29 passes and if he was pressured, he didn't seem flustered. Cincinnati is not known for defensive prowess, but Baltimore had a solid day and the imminent return of Willis McGahee along with improvement from Flacco bodes well for this unit.
Now, back to those jerseys. In a completely unofficial and unscientific poll, I did a quick phone survey of Baltimore area sporting goods retailers this morning. Shenk and Tittle in White Marsh seemed to be most on the ball with about 180 Flacco jerseys in stock and ready to move. Their preseason top seller was a surprise to me: Matt Stover. Flacco got hot when he was named as the starter and apparently, Ray Rice will be in demand once it becomes available. Modells in Reiserstown was out of stock in Flacco adult sizes but had plenty for kids. Champs in Eastpoint only had 10 in stock but expected them to go quickly, outselling previous favorites Ed Reed and Todd Heap. Sports Authority in Glen Burnie had about 50 and would be increasing its monthly order as Flacco overtook Ray Lewis, Stover, Kelly Gregg(?) and Heap. Finally, Dick's Sporting Goods' website lists the Flacco alternate black jersey as its top selling Ravens item.
Now, two names in the previous paragraph jump out at me: Matt Stover and Kelly Gregg. Stover has longevity (he's the only Cleveland Brown veteran on the team) consistent productivity and he is well-known as a good guy in the community, but how many NFL teams have the kicker as one of their top-selling jerseys? According to two salespeople I spoke with, Stover is hard to find, so perhaps its rarity makes it more desirable. As for Gregg, well, he was the fourth-leading tackler on the defense last year and he was tied or second in sacks with three. Hmm, I'm sure I'm missing something.
In any case, I'll be checking back with those stores in the coming weeks to track the Flacco sales. The Ravens' next home game is in two weeks against the Browns. Expect to see an influx of Flacco.