What started as a dream come true for Ravens guard Jermaine Eluemunor ended as a nightmare for the team's makeshift offensive line.
Eluemunor, the London-born rookie fifth-round pick, not only was active for the first time in his career, but he also got significant playing time at right guard, where he rotated with Matt Skura, who was also making his NFL debut.
However, the good sentiment pretty much halted there for the offensive line, which didn't play well in the first game without right guard Marshal Yanda, a perennial Pro Bowl selection who is lost for the season because of an ankle injury.
In a humbling 44-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Ravens struggled to stop a young and talented defensive front from getting penetration and disrupting the passing game.
Joe Flacco and his backup Ryan Mallett, who played most of the fourth quarter in the rout, were sacked twice and hit five total times. But those numbers don't really measure the impact the Jaguars' front seven had on the game.
"It's just the way the game goes sometimes," Flacco said after throwing for a career-low 28 yards. "They have a good defense. I've been saying that all week. They play fast, they play hard. They are strong, they're physical. They create issues for a lot of teams. We weren't able to get going early. I thought we could probably take some shots outside, but just weren't able to get it done."
Flacco was sacked on third down in two of the Ravens' first three possessions. He was rushed into decisions on other plays. Flacco didn't point fingers at his offensive line after the game, nor did coach John Harbaugh.
"That's something you have to look at the tape and just kind of look at every single aspect of the way we played in all three phases," Harbaugh said. "One thing you know, I'm not going to sit here and finger-point. As a team, we didn't get the job done: coaches, players, anybody. We got outplayed. We have to move on and find a way to play better next week."
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, left guard James Hurst, center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Austin Howard started together for the third straight week.
In somewhat of a surprise move, the Ravens started Skura at right guard despite Harbaugh's all but anointing veteran Tony Bergstrom as Yanda's replacement after a 24-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 2.
Bergstrom played the final two quarters in place of an injured Yanda in that game. However, he was left inactive Sunday for the first time this season. Skura, who was promoted from the practice squad Tuesday, got the start.
The team rotated Eluemunor in for a few series as well.
"We were competing all week," Skura said.. "The coaches said they were going to give both of us the opportunity to play. I thought I played OK for my first start, but I'm sure once we get on the plane and start watching film, there there will be a lot of stuff to work on."
Said Eluemunor: "We have things that we can work on. We're going to come back this week, watch film and get better than there. And then all eyes on Pittsburgh and go out there and play Ravens football."
While it obviously wasn’t the end result he wanted, Eluemunor made no attempt to hide the emotion he felt playing in his first NFL game at Wembley Stadium.
Eluemunor grew up in London playing soccer and rugby. He was introduced to football when he happened upon a New York Giants-Miami Dolphins game at Wembley Stadium on television.
He moved to the United States two years later and started playing football. Things came full circle for him Sunday.
"I’m not sure too many other rookies can say that they made their debut in their hometown,” Eluemunor said. “Being able to come back to England and play at Wembley Stadium is something I’ll remember forever. … When I first got here and I walked outside, I teared up a little bit. Growing up, you just dream about playing in that stadium. I didn’t think it was going to be playing American football for sure.”