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Baltimore, 2 for Ohio, now gets Pittsburgh

September 29, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

The Baltimore Ravens are 2-0.

That's short for two and Ohio.

The Ravens, whose two victories have come against the winless Cincinnati Bengals and 1-3 Cleveland Browns, will face their first big test tonight when they play at Pittsburgh with the AFC North lead at stake.

It will be the first road game for Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, and the pressure will be on Baltimore's defense to prove its first two games were no mirage. Against the Bengals and Browns, Baltimore gave up a league-best average of 161.5 yards, and 10 points in each game.

In their two games against Baltimore last year, the Steelers averaged 29.5 points. But don't expect an encore. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, sacked eight times by Philadelphia in Week 3, is banged up and had to leave the Eagles game in the fourth quarter because of a sore throwing hand. What's more, running back Willie Parker is out because of a knee injury. All eyes will be on rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall to pick up the slack, although he doesn't have a carry in the last two games.

Although Flacco has yet to throw a touchdown pass this season, he could become the first rookie quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger to lead his team to a 3-0 record. The last to do that was Cincinnati's Greg Cook in 1969.

Of course, Flacco's accomplishment so far pales in comparison with what Roethlisberger did as a rookie in 2004, going 13-0 in the regular season. A year later, he became the youngest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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