Kyle Boller used last night's intrasquad scrimmage to find a rhythm in the pocket and a couple of receivers deep down the sidelines.
All the Ravens quarterback has to locate now is the end zone.
Impressing the crowd of 16,820 -- a team record at McDaniel College -- Boller showed off some newfound accuracy, connecting on 10 of 13 passes for 110 yards, but failed to squash the same old scoring concerns. He didn't lead a touchdown drive in three series and marched them inside the red zone only once.
As a result, the only points Boller produced were with his coaching staff. Relaxed and confident, he took chances downfield when his targets were open and dumped the ball off to his tight ends and running backs when his deeper receivers were covered.
The Ravens are banking that Boller will continue with the efficiency he displayed last night (76.9 percent) rather than last season (51.8 percent).
"I really felt like I was under a lot more control," Boller said. "The main thing is that I've been really working on my mechanics. I wanted to, under a game situation, really concentrate on good fundamentals."
It was also apparent that Boller has been working on his other problem area -- his decision-making. He was decisive in hitting Travis Taylor on a 13-yard slant and a 24-yard route over the middle.
When he felt the pressure, he took the sack (the defense wasn't allowed to hit quarterbacks) instead of forcing the ball into coverage. His only incompletions were on an overthrown deep pass to Taylor, a batted-down attempt in the backfield and a drop by reserve tight end Daniel Wilcox.
"He was smooth and in control," coach Brian Billick said. "He understood what he needed to do."
The next step is to cross the goal line.
On the opening drive, Boller quickly moved the offense to the defense's 26-yard line, where the drive stalled on two sacks (Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs). After he guided the offense to the 19-yard line on his next series, he couldn't find an open receiver on third-and-seven and settled for scrambling for a couple of yards.
Boller's final action ended around midfield, where Wilcox had a third-down pass that could have continued the drive bounce off his hands.
"You always want to get the touchdowns," Boller said. "We were playing against a great defense. We've got to make sure we watch the tape and find out what happened and try to get into the end zone."
Some of Boller's effectiveness might have been helped by the fact that the Ravens are growing thin in the secondary. With the defense missing starting cornerbacks Chris McAlister (contract dispute) and Gary Baxter (hernia), Boller took advantage on the first drive, going after Corey Fuller on a 30-yard pass to Randy Hymes down the right sideline and a 13-yard slant to Taylor.
When asked if those absences tempered the excitement over Boller's performance, Taylor said, "No, it doesn't. This is the NFL. This is the top of the league. It doesn't matter who's in front on you, no matter if it's Chris McAlister or whoever it might be."
In a modified scoring system, the offense came back to win, 23-19, when No. 3 quarterback Josh Harris hit Wilcox for a 17-yard touchdown on the final play. Harris finished 5-for-6 for 76 yards, and backup quarterback Kordell Stewart was 5-for-8 for 48 yards.
The defense dictated most of the game, holding the offense out of the end zone for the first 44 plays. In the end, the defense forced as many turnovers (interceptions by Ray Walls and John Garrett) as touchdowns allowed.
"You know, to watch the offense march down the field, and then the defense come up with the big play, it's pretty good," Billick said. "We got a lot done tonight."
Ravens preseason opener
Opponent: Atlanta Falcons
Site: M&T; Bank Stadium
When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN, Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)
Line: Ravens by 3 1/2