Baltimore Ravens

Ravens starters find a rhythm in preseason win against Jaguars

Joe Flacco faked a handoff, spotted Anquan Boldin alone in the back of the end zone and connected with hit him for the easy touchdown. He then ran to the sidelines, pumping his fist nearly the entire way.

Preseason or not and regardless of the opponent, the Ravens’ starting offense needed a performance like this.

The Ravens had spent the week focusing on finishing drives and they did just that Thursday, setting a team record for preseason points in a 48-17 throttling of the Jacksonville Jaguars before an announced 70,502 at M&T Bank Stadium.

“It just felt good to get the offense clicking on all cylinders,” said Ravens fullback Vonta Leach who caught one of two Flacco touchdown passes. “I think our offense was rolling. No matter who was in the game, everybody was ready to play.”

Playing into the third quarter, Flacco was extremely sharp, completing 27-of-36 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, which was on essentially a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half. Flacco, who had led only one touchdown drive over the first two preseason games, compiled a 102.3 quarterback rating and completed passes to nine different receivers.

Second-year wide receiver Torrey Smith shrugged off a sprained right ankle to catch eight balls for 103 yards and a touchdown. Tyrod Taylor connected with LaQuan Williams and rookie Bobby Rainey for touchdown passes and Curtis Painter hit Tommy Streeter for a touchdown as the Ravens (2-1) amassed 571 yards of total offense in building a 34-3 lead at one point.

“The thing that we did was we finished things,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s one thing we’ve been striving for. It’s kind of been something important to us in practice when you’re fighting to accomplish that every single day. We finished catches. We finished runs. We finished blocks. We finished drives for the most part."

Harbaugh said that he’ll be able to better evaluate his team’s performance after he watches the game film on Friday. As thorough as the beating was of the Jaguars, Harbaugh will still find some things that he doesn’t like.

Reserve safety and one of the Ravens’ top special teams players, Emanuel Cook, who Harbaugh called one of his favorite players, broke his right leg covering a kick and will be lost for the season. Two other reserve defensive backs and special teams standouts – Sean Considine and Corey Graham – were also injured.

While Justin Tucker and not Billy Cundiff handled all the kicking and was flawless on two field goals, including a 53-yarder, and six extra points, the Ravens’ kick coverage struggled, they committed a few penalties that stalled drives, Taylor threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, and the starting defense allowed one prolonged drive by quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

But there was far more good than bad. Unlike the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan and the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford who torched the Ravens’ defense the past two weeks, Gabbert completed just 11-of-21 passes for 117 yards, and was sacked once by Haloti Ngata. His backup, Chad Henne, was just five-of-10 for 57 yards and was sacked twice.   

“I loved it. The effort was there 110 percent today,” said cornerback Lardarius Webb who led the Ravens with six tackles. “The guys were flying around the ball. They were playing Ravens’ defense tonight.”

They also were more than happy to remain on the sidelines and watch Flacco, again thriving in no-huddle situations, repeatedly drive the offense down the field. 

On the Ravens’ first touchdown scoring drive, Flacco was 8-of-9 for 87 yards and a touchdown. He then followed that drive up by connecting on all five of his throws to set up Tucker’s 53-yard field goal that made the score 13-0.

Then after the Ravens forced a punt to start the third quarter, Flacco completed 7-of-9 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown on a drive that ended with Leach catching a pass along the right sideline and shrugging off a Jaguars’ tackle on his way to the end zone.

“It was fun,” said Flacco who like the rest of the starters, will probably play sparingly, if at all, in the Ravens’ preseason finale next Thursday against the St. Louis Rams in the Edward Jones Dome. “It felt like it could have been a lot quicker at times, and put a little bit more pressure on them, but I think overall, it was a pretty good job. Once that ball was snapped, we were flying around, running really good routes, running full speed. That puts a lot of pressure on those guys.”