"I thought Marc [Trestman] did a really interesting job of the way he called plays," said John Harbaugh. "It was based off the run game and a lot of play passes." (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Joe Flacco and the starting offense engineered a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on their first and only possession. The starting defense forced the New Orleans Saints to go three-and-out. And the Ravens seemingly emerged from the game without any significant injuries to frontline players.
As far as preseason openers go, everything Thursday night went about as well as the Ravens could have hoped with the first-team offense and defense. The second-team defense was a different story.
They beat the Saints, 30-27, in front of an announced 70,501 at M&T Bank Stadium thanks to third-team quarterback Bryn Renner's touchdown run with two seconds remaining. They also got a rushing touchdown from Lorenzo Taliaferro, a touchdown pass thrown by Matt Schaub to Michael Campanaro and three field goals by Justin Tucker, including one from 51 yards.
But it was Flacco who set the tone, making mostly safe throws while getting a variety of Ravens involved. On the game-opening drive, six Ravens touched the ball, and that doesn't include Flacco, who made the biggest play. It was also the scariest if you ask John Harbaugh and the Ravens' coaches.
On a third-and-7 from the Saints 42, Flacco was in the pocket as New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan turned the corner. However, Flacco sensed the pressure and rolled out to his left, eluding several Saints defenders. He tiptoed down the sideline for a gain of 17.
The rest of the drive belonged to Taliaferro, as he carried the ball on five of the next six plays. On a fourth-and-1 from the one, Taliaferro pushed into the end zone for the score.
The drive took eight minutes, 15 seconds and included two catches for 14 yards by fullback Kyle Juszczyk, a 3-yard, first-down completion to Steve Smith Sr., and an 8-yard first-down catch by tight end Crockett Gillmore. Taliaferro had one catch for nine yards on the drive and six carries for 19 yards.
Flacco, who is adapting to his fourth offensive coordinator (Marc Trestman) in as many seasons, completed 5 of 6 pass attempts for 33 yards on the drive and then retreated to the sideline, where he remained for the rest of the night. He was joined by many of the Ravens' other starters.
"In the first preseason game, you always feel a few nerves," Flacco said. "You really want to do well, because you're not playing that many reps and you need to make the most of them. It was a great way for us to start off the game, to have a good, solid drive with everybody in there and feel good about it. Now, we need to get back to practice and continue what we have been building."
By the time the Ravens got the ball a second time, the only projected starters still on the field were Gillmore and Kamar Aiken, and Aiken's evening concluded soon after when he appeared to suffer a minor lower leg injury.
The surrounding inexperience didn't seem to affect Schaub, whose uneven play in training camp has been well-documented. He looked sharp for much of the night, though he did throw a bad interception on the Ravens' first possession of the second half.
On the team's second scoring drive, Schaub hit Gillmore for nine yards and a first down. Two plays later, he found Campanaro free behind the secondary. Campanaro broke one tackle before getting into the end zone, the 45-yard connection giving the Ravens a 14-0 lead.
"We had some push early in the game, and our backs did OK," Harbaugh said. "They ran hard. Scoring in your first two series is a good start."
Not to be outdone, the Ravens starting defense allowed just 11 yards on the Saints' first two drives. Their biggest play came on a third-and-1 late in the first quarter, when defensive linemen Lawrence Guy and rookie Carl Davis got penetration and stopped Mark Ingram for no gain.
It should be mentioned that the Saints started Luke McCown at quarterback, not Drew Brees. However, the Ravens kept several of their defensive starters on the sideline as well, as defensive end Chris Canty, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot) and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb didn't play.
"It's hard to start the season any better than that," Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "The only thing we could have done better is to have some turnovers. Having two or three three-and-outs from the 'ones,' I think we can live with that. And, we didn't have a lot of our starters in, so this is a good thing to build on."
The second-team defense wasn't feeling as optimistic. It allowed McCown to throw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks on a play during which several Ravens defensive backs missed tackles or overran the play.
Then, the Ravens surrendered a six-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that ended with Ryan Griffin hitting Khiry Robinson for a 21-yard touchdown. That made the score 20-14 at halftime.
"It doesn't matter who is in there," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "We can't give up a 90-yard drive at the end of the half — or a game. We had some players tackling high and we didn't cover the way we can."