Things did not appear promising when the Ravens announced before Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints at M&T Bank Stadium that they had deactivated right tackle James Hurst, who came down with a back injury the day before.
That news coupled with Friday’s decision to rule out left guard Alex Lewis (pinched nerve in neck) meant that the offensive line would be forced to play without two starters. But with rookies Orlando Brown Jr. and Bradley Bozeman making the first starts of their NFL careers, the line fared decently despite a 24-23 loss.
Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns and was sacked only once. And that sack occurred in the fourth quarter when defensive end Alex Okafor tossed aside tight end Nick Boyle.
“I think they did OK and fought their tails off,” six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda said. “That’s all you can ask. It’s next man up, and injuries are a part of football, but I think they did a pretty good job.”
Brown, the organization’s first of two third-round selections in April’s NFL draft, did not give up a sack to defensive end Cameron Jordan, who entered the game tied for 10th in the league in sacks with five.
“At the end of the day, I figured it out,” he said. “That’s just the reality of it. That’s how I was raised. No man or no moves scare me. I continue to worry about myself and grind.”
Bozeman, the third of three sixth-round picks, began at left guard, but suffered a left calf injury in the first quarter that led to his playing just intermittently. Hroniss Grasu replaced Bozeman when he was out.
“It was definitely frustrating getting my first start and then that happening,” said Bozeman, who finished the game. “But that’s part of football. I came back in and did what I could do, and when I couldn’t go, Hroniss went, and he came in and did a great job, too. He was popping in left and right. But at the end of the day, it’s part of football.”
Mixed feelings for John Brown
With season highs in both receptions (seven) and yards (134), wide receiver John Brown enjoyed his most productive outing as a member of the Ravens.
His 56-yard catch and run set up the offense’s first touchdown in the second quarter, and his 14-yard catch pulled the team to within one point with 24 seconds left in the final frame. But Brown — who has the team’s five longest plays from scrimmage — rued the personal success at the expense of the team’s success.
“I would rather get the win,” he said. “You could take all those yards back and the touchdown. I’d rather get the win.”
The familiar sight of Benjamin Watson catching a touchdown pass in an end zone at M&T Bank Stadium was reminiscent of his time with the Ravens, but the tight end now plays for the Saints.
Watson, whose four touchdown catches last season tied him for the team best with former wide receiver Mike Wallace, caught a 1-yard pass from quarterback Drew Brees to give New Orleans a 7-3 lead with 1:53 left in the second quarter. That was the 500th touchdown throw of Brees’ all-but-certain Hall of Fame career.
“Anything I can do to further his records, the happier I am,” said Watson, who caught his first touchdown pass of the season. “I was thrilled to catch the 500th touchdown pass, but this is the kind of guy Drew Brees is. He wanted me to keep the ball, and I said, ‘I’m not keeping this.’ So he did take it.”
Lamar Jackson gets first touchdown
Seven games into his NFL career, rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson finally found the end zone, collecting his first touchdown on a 1-yard run up the middle that gave the Ravens a 10-7 lead with four seconds left before halftime.
On second-and-goal and with Flacco lined up wide right, Jackson took the shotgun snap, faked a handoff to running back Alex Collins as he went left, and veered slightly to his right to plunge into the end zone. Afterward, the organization’s second of two first-round selections in April’s draft stood up blowing kisses to the crowd before he was mobbed by his teammates.
“I finally got that burden off,” said Jackson, who had entered the game with 17 carries for 94 yards and one of five pass attempts for 24 yards, but no score in either department. “I was a yard or two short last week, and then I finally got it. So it’s pretty cool.”
» In addition to Hurst and Lewis, the team deactivated cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey (thigh) and rookie Anthony Averett (hamstring), quarterback Robert Griffin III, rookie wide receiver Jordan Lasley and rookie defensive end Zach Sieler.
>> A pair of former Ravens in free safety Ed Reed and fullback Vonta Leach attended the game.
>> New Orleans played without a starter on the offensive line as left guard Andrus Peat (head) was ruled out Friday. The team also scratched defensive linemen Trey Hendrickson, Mitchell Loewen and rookie Taylor Stallworth (ankle), left tackle and Towson graduate Jermon Bushrod (not injury related), rookie center Will Clapp and rookie defensive back J.T. Gray.
» Tight end Nick Boyle, safety Chuck Clark, inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, nose tackle Michael Pierce and wide receiver Willie Snead IV represented the Ravens for the pre-game coin toss, which they won.