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Commentary: Don't worry, this one didn't count

BALTIMORE
The fans know the truth. No matter what happened on Thursday night, the game was still meaningless.
Tandon Doss and Aaron Mellette aren't going to be playing much, if at all for the Baltimore Ravens this season.
The fans know that.
Despite the nationally televised game and the attention that it generated, this one doesn't matter.
The Ravens are 2-1 after the first three preseason games. If Baltimore is 2-1 after the first three regular season games, then that's something to talk about.
Fans come to M&T Bank Stadium for preseason games because it's part of the season ticket package, and because they do love football and the Ravens.
The game's first efficient drive that resulted in a touchdown didn't inspire wild cheers. The interceptions, the Ted Ginn, Jr. punt return and the Bernard Pierce fumble didn't cause the majority of the fans to boo and jeer.
They know, or at least they hope, that the regular season will be better. Two weeks from now when Baltimore opens the defense of its Super Bowl title at Denver, it will be meaningful and exciting.
The third preseason game is always billed as the real dress rehearsal for the regular season. Whether the players buy that, in some ways, the fans did.
The atmosphere felt more like a regular season game even if last week's game was against a more accomplished opponent. The Ravens' first three preseason games were all against NFC South teams: Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Carolina.
Many more fans were on hand for a nationally televised ESPN game that started half an hour later than last week's game with the Falcons.
The defense was introduced first, and without Ray Lewis, who's working for ESPN now, Terrell Suggs had the honor of being introduced last.
Baltimore will have to get used to football without the Ray Lewis dance, and with No. 52 putting his house up for sale, presumably without Lewis around at all.
It's Suggs' defense and Joe Flacco's offense now.
Despite the interceptions in the first half, Flacco isn't going to be heavily criticized around here. Flacco's postseason heroics earned him that enormous contract and lots of security.
Flacco played 2 ½ quarters. It's likely he'll not play at all in next Thursday's game in St. Louis. That will another chance for Tyrod Taylor and Caleb Hanie, who played after Taylor was knocked out late in the fourth quarter, to show something positive.
"You prepare for the games at hand, but you're also preparing for the season. St. Louis is going to be a very important game for a lot of guys," coach John Harbaugh said. "There are still going to be jobs that won't be decided when we go to St. Louis. Some guys will have an opportunity to earn some spots."
After Flacco was finished for the night, Taylor threw an interception that went for a touchdown. After that, the fan exodus that began after Flacco left, picked up momentum.
In five regular seasons, Flacco has never been pulled from a game because of poor performance.
It's not going to happen in the sixth year, either.
Of course, coaches want to win every game, even the meaningless ones. It bothered Harbaugh that his team lost four of its last five regular season games last year. The Ravens' coach even treated the final game at Cincinnati as a glorified preseason game, giving Taylor his only meaningful playing time of his career.
A year ago, the Ravens were 2-2 in the preseason. Few fans remember that. Three times, including in the first Super Bowl year, Baltimore was undefeated in the preseason. Few know that, either. In the Harbaugh era, they're now 15-8 in games that don't count.
In two weeks, they'll start counting.

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