BALTIMORE — They’re not getting older. They’re getting better.
Well, maybe Ray Lewis and Ed Reed aren’t getting better, but they’re still dominating players.
Lewis and Reed remain the emotional hub of the Baltimore Ravens defense.
At 36, Lewis took his offseason training to a new level, losing weight and looking even leaner.
Reed, who turns 34 on Tuesday, teased the Ravens with his familiar retirement talk, but in the end came back.
On Monday night, Lewis had 11 unassisted tackles, assisted on three others and delivered a key sack.
“When we step on the football field, we’re a totally different breed,” Lewis said.
Reed set an NFL record for yards on interceptions and had his first touchdown in nearly three years.
“I wasn’t going to let the [offensive] linemen catch me,” Reed joked. “So, I just dove. It strained my hamstring trying to dive. I’m going to be 34 in two hours. Father Time does catch up with you.”
Reed admitted that he was tired after chasing Cincinnati’s receivers.
“I think I ran about four miles today,” Reed said.
On Sunday night, Lewis spoke to the team.
“Take advantage of the opportunity,” he told them.
Reed remembered. He missed two possible interceptions before he ran back his seventh career touchdown.
“It’s about making those plays. I’ve been doing that basically my whole career,” Reed said.
Reed gets to watch the Ravens’ no-huddle offense and it helped him prepare when the Bengals threw one at them.
“We’ve been preparing for that for a long time. It’s a matter of us clicking at the same time,” Reed.
There were some hiccups. Twice in the first half, they had to take time out for too many men on the field and once were penalized for it.
“The biggest thing is communication, and we know it’s something we have to work on,” Reed said. “We’re just getting started on this journey. We know what we need to get better on.”
The Ravens missed Terrell Suggs, who tore his right Achilles tendon. Suggs, on the physically unable to perform list, stood on the sidelines wearing a black Ravens baseball cap on backward, pacing and talking with teammates and coaches.
“I think people think we’re going to have a tougher time without Terrell Suggs,” Haloti Ngata said. “But we’ve been working hard all training camp to create pressure and get to the quarterback.”
Ngata had two of the four Baltimore sacks.
Instead of Suggs, there was Paul Kruger with rookie Courtney Upshaw backing him up.
“Can you replace a Terrell Suggs? Absolutely not,” Lewis said. “Can you get a young Paul Kruger playing better? Can you get a younger Upshaw to pick up the level of his play? Absolutely. That’s what we did tonight. For our sake, keep adding those pieces, adding those pieces.”
When the Bengals’ BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored on a six-yard rush just before the end of the half, Suggs put the cap on straight, stood behind coach John Harbaugh and yelled along with the coach.
“We didn’t play perfectly as a defense,” Lewis said.
Maybe it was a sign that the Ravens chose to introduce their offense first on Monday night.
Instead of the Lewis dance for the emotional season opener, the defense was relegated to second string. The attention that was usually the defenses’ was on the new no-huddle offense.
“We’re a totally different team right now than we were last year or the year before that. I think we have the guys who understand that. We know what we’re trying to get done,” Lewis said.