It would be cliché to say the NFL's self-proclaimed Dream Team turned the Ravens' preseason opener into a nightmare. But the Philadelphia Eagles certainly exploited enough areas to cause some worries when the Ravens go to sleep tonight.
The Ravens' 13-6 loss before an announced crowd of 69,144 at Lincoln Financial Field will increase concerns that the team needs to add an experienced wide receiver, a proven right tackle and backup quarterback.
All three sacks in the first half were allowed by the Ravens' offensive tackles, and the number of times that Michael Oher, Oniel Cousins and Jah Reid were beaten doubled that amount. Anquan Boldin and the top two rookie receives (Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss) combined for three catches. And rookie sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor threw two interceptions, including one deep inside the red zone, in a debut that featured him running for most of the night.
At times, the Ravens looked like it had only practiced as a full team for a week, the result of this year's lockout.
"Obviously, we have tons of work to do," coach John Harbaugh said. "We just have to get better faster than the people that we're going to play. That's our job."
The Ravens have gone from an experienced team to a young one when they released four veterans (Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg and Willis McGahee) before training camp.
Despite the rocky start, there was no sense of panic from the Ravens, who are looking to make the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
"I think we're going to be a good football team," Harbaugh said. "We have a chance to be a great football team, and that's going to be on us and how much we can improve from now until next Friday. That's our next test. We should make our most improvement over the next week, and we are determined to do that."
While the lasting impression was what the Ravens need, they also had some young players step up.
The standouts for the Ravens were tight end Dennis Pitta (four catches for 47 yards) and linebacker Paul Kruger (team-best five tackles and one sack). Pitta did his best Todd Heap impersonation with some athletic catches, and Kruger seemed to be everywhere on the field.
"I told Dennis that he's capable of making those catches," Harbaugh said. "I think he's capable of being one of those receivers who can make spectacular catches consistently. And that's what he's here to do."
The frustration peaked for the Ravens in the third quarter, when it appeared that cornerback Lardarius Webb returned a fumble 93 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. But officials overturned the score after reviewing the play, saying third-string quarterback Mike Kafka had his arm going forward when Ravens rookie Pernell McPhee knocked the ball loose.
Instead of a Ravens touchdown, the Eagles kicked 24-yard field goal to extend their lead to 13-3.
The Ravens continually kept the game close against the Eagles, who made the biggest splash in the NFL with the free-agent acquisitions of cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie; defensive end Jason Babib; defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and running backRonnie Brown.
The preseason started perfectly for the Ravens when Pitta made an acrobatic 27-yard catch down the seam on the team's first offensive play. The other big play on the series came on third-and-7, when Ray Rice turned a short pass in the left flat into a 21-yard gain.
The promising drive ended with a 6-yard loss by Rice and two incompletions by Flacco. Billy Cundiff's 53-yard field goal ricocheted off the left upright to give the Ravens a 3-0 lead.
To start his only drive of the game, Vick hit Jason Avant for a 20-yard pass before burning the Ravens' secondary deep. After Chris Carr bit on a fake, Eagles receiver Riley Cooper outran Ed Reed for a 42-yard catch to the Ravens' 2-yard line.
It was an all-too-familiar reminder from last season. While the Ravens only gave up five passes over 40 yards in the regular season last year, a 58-yarder to Steelers' Antonio Brown in the playoffs essentially ended their season.
On third-and-goal, Vick connected with tight end Brent Celek for a 3-yard touchdown. While Celek is only 10 pounds bigger than Jameel McClain, he powered his way past the Ravens linebacker around the goal line for the only touchdown of the first half.
Flacco's last drive ended with a sack created when no one got open, a common occurrence for his cameo appearance. There has been some concern about the Ravens' passing attack after losing five of the team's top seven pass catchers from a season ago.
Of Flacco's six passes, only two went to wide receivers and none came away with a catch. ESPN reported Thursday that the Buffalo Bills could trade receiver Lee Evans over the next couple of days, and it's unsure whether the Ravens are interested in the deep threat.
Flacco finished 3-for-6 for 60 yards on two drives.
It was tough to evaluate the offense because the pass protection broke down too often. The Ravens gave up six sacks and countless hurries.
"I definitely went through some growing pains out there," said Reid, the rookie third-round pick. "I definitely have a lot of room to improve. And that's what I'm going to do."
Down 13-3 in the third quarter after the Ravens' defensive touchdown was nullified, Taylor put together his most impressive drive. But he couldn't finish it off.
On third-and-goal, Taylor threw a pass to the end zone while rolling to his right and it got picked off by Jarrad Page.
Taylor walked off the field in the fourth quarter with a trainer while holding the back of his head after taking a hit on a play where an interception was negated by replay. He soon returned after being checked out by trainers.
"His poise was big," Harbaugh said. "He really managed the offense really well. I think he's a pinpoint passer. He probably learned more from this game than any other game he's had in his career. He's smart enough to take advantage of that."
The Ravens had a chance to tie the game in the final minute of the game. But Taylor, who was rushed out of the pocket continually by pressure, threw three incompletions in the end zone to end the game.
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