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Ravens offense failed to build any sort of momentum against Panthers

There is only one preseason game remaining before the 2013 regular season begins, and there is still no indication how the Ravens offense will perform in the opener against the Broncos in Denver.

The Ravens mounted two scoring drives against the Carolina Panthers' first-team defense Thursday night — including one of 69 yards in nine plays on their first possession — but that was about it from the starters in their 34-27 loss.

The Ravens had a lot of problems.

The blocking on the offensive line was inconsistent, especially in pass protection. Receivers dropped passes and at times had no idea of where they were going. Backup running back Bernard Pierce played soft, and new tight end Dallas Clark dropped two passes.

And now, let's get to quarterback Joe Flacco. He had two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown and the other that halted a scoring drive, both in the first half.

Fortunately, this is only a preseason game. Unfortunately, the Ravens wanted to build some offensive momentum because, the final preseason game next week against the St. Louis Rams is basically a night off for the starters.

 “We obviously turned the ball over and you lose more games than you win in this league when you do that,” Flacco said. “With what we did tonight, we’re not going to win a lot of football games doing that. At the same time, it was just a lot of miscommunication and I felt like we did a lot of really good things, too.

"In the regular season we’re not going to be able to say that. We’ll have to come out here and fight and continue to get back in games. Tonight was one of those games that we did a lot of good things, but we had some miscommunication and turned the ball over too much.”

There is no need to panic yet, because most offenses are behind the defenses at this time of year, and the Ravens have some proven commodities with Flacco, running back Ray Rice, fullback Vonta Leach and receiver Torrey Smith. But you'd at least like to see more life in the offense, and so far there hasn't been much.

Flacco had another subpar performance (73.1 quarterback rating), his third of the preseason, and didn't move well in the pocket when pressured. The Panthers harassed Flacco quite often in the first period, and some of the miscues weren't his fault.

He threw to Clark three times. One pass was behind him, but Clark dropped two others. On one of those, Flacco floated a pass and Clark short-armed it in what amounted to a business decision. Veterans don't stretch out for those types of passes in the preseason. Unfortunately, Flacco throws two or three of those every game.

It was, however, a total team effort by the offense. The Ravens were playing their first game with the offensive line intact and got a strong effort by right guard Marshal Yanda.

But the others struggled, particularly left guard Kelechi Osemele against Panthers rookie tackle Star Lotulelei. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie has had a strong preseason compared to his previous two seasons in Baltimore, but he still struggles as a run blocker. As for reserve right guard Jah Reed, who got time with the first team, his lack of foot speed continues to be a liability.

The night wasn't a total loss for the Ravens offense. Flacco and Brandon Stokley hooked up three times in the first half, one for 27 yards, and Stokley will probably be a key target on third downs working across the middle or in the flats.

“We’ve just got to execute better,” Stokley said. “We moved the ball well, we just shot ourselves in the foot, committed turnovers and had drive killers. We’ve got to get back to practice, work on those types of things and get them corrected. If we do that, I think we’ll be all right.”

Leach performed well, and Rice showed great burst when there were holes. The Ravens didn't game plan, and that has to be why an explosive receiver like Torrey Smith didn't catch a pass in the first half.

But this was not the effort Ravens coach John Harbaugh expected. All week he talked about getting his offense into a rhythm, and the Ravens wanted to get Flacco and Rice untracked.

It didn't happen. And Pierce looked timid, nowhere near as powerful as he was at the end of last season.

There are still a couple of weeks left before the Ravens travel to Denver, but there is work to be done.

A lot of it. Much more than the Ravens expected.

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