BALTIMORE - Joe Flacco and the Ravens' offense actually got off to a fast and encouraging start Thursday.
They were sharp, in rhythm and looking as collectively solid as they have at any point during the last few weeks.
That lasted for one drive. The Ravens' opening possession was a crisp nine-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a Ray Rice touchdown.
After that, the offense reverted back to the same unit that has struggled and looked so out of sync for different portions of the summer.
Yes, it's still just the preseason. But for as uplifting of a start as Baltimore's offense may have gotten off to, Thursday's 34-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers will be more defined by the problems that continue to plague Flacco and the Ravens' offense with the regular season now less than two weeks away.
"We opened the way we want to play and know we can play," Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. "We were crisp, we were fast, and we were in rhythm. The turnovers got us, and you have to rebound from those."
But the turnovers were far from the only issue.
Flacco struggled. So did the offensive line. Actually, aside from the opening drive, Baltimore's first-team offense collectively struggled for much of the two-plus quarters it was in the game for Thursday night.
After the opening drive touchdown, the Ravens' final five possessions of the first half consisted of two punts, a fumble that was recovered by the Panthers for a touchdown and two Flacco interceptions, including one that was returned 71 yards for a score.
"We obviously turned the ball over, and you lose more games than you win in this league when you do that," Flacco said. "With what we did tonight, we're not going to win a lot of football games doing that.
"At the same time, it was just a lot of miscommunication, and I felt like we did a lot of really good things, too. [But] in the regular season, we're not going to be able to say that. We'll have to come out here and fight and continue to get back in games. Tonight was one of those games that we did a lot of good things, but we had some miscommunication and turned the ball over too much."
And the numbers weren't pretty.
Excluding the first drive, Flacco was 8-of-14 for 68 yards and the two interceptions during the first half.
The first interception didn't look to be Flacco's fault - appearing to be a result of a miscommunication with wide receiver Tandon Doss.
But the second interception, which came late in the second quarter, appeared to be squarely on Flacco. He threw late over the middle and was picked off by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly after Baltimore had driven to Carolina's 10-yard line.
Flacco did lead two scoring drives to start the second half - one that he capped with a 24-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown. But overall, the play of Flacco and the first-team offense was underwhelming, as it has been at different points this summer.
"We've just got to execute better," Ravens wide receiver Brandon Stokley said. "We moved the ball well. We just shot ourselves in the foot, committed turnovers and had drive-killers. We've got to get back to practice, work on those types of things and get them corrected. If we do that, I think we'll be all right."
Despite the score, Baltimore's defense didn't play badly Thursday.
After struggling some against the Atlanta Falcons last week, the Ravens' defense forced punts on four of the six possessions Carolina's first-team offense was on the field for Thursday, including three of the Panthers' four possessions during the half.
Carolina's first-team offense had just 104 yards and eight first downs on those six drives, and quarterback Cam Newton finished just 10-of-19 for 99 yards.
"We wanted to come out and play better than we did last week - the way we know how to play," Baltimore linebacker Daryl Smith said. "It was important to play fundamental football, play with good technique, and I think we did that for the most part tonight."
The primary issue for Baltimore Thursday was its offense, and time is running out to take care of some of those lingering offensive issues before the regular season opener against the Denver Broncos Sept. 5.