Thanks to three touchdown drives by the first-team offense and a last-minute drive led by Tyrod Taylor, the Ravens overcame a 14-point first-quarter deficit to win their alleged preseason rivalry game against the Redskins, 34-31. Here is what is on my mind after the Ravens won their second straight preseason game.
1. Take a deep breath. Joe Flacco is going to be OK. I’ve been as critical as anyone when it comes to his performance in the playoffs, but the quarterback’s regular-season track record the past three seasons has been sterling enough that we don’t have to break down his every throw in the preseason. Yet as soon as Flacco chucked that ugly pick-six early in the first quarter, the blogosphere -- I know that doesn’t include everyone in Baltimore, but that’s the world I live in -- was ready to run Flacco out of town. But Flacco bounced back to throw two touchdown passes and led the Ravens on another touchdown drive. He clicked with Anquan Boldin, who had five catches for 73 yards and a score, which was something I wanted to see after they were out of sync last week. Let’s wait until the games matter to judge Flacco.
2. We often compare play-calling to Ben & Jerry’s flavors. If Greg Mattison was vanilla and Rex Ryan was Chunky Monkey, then what does that make Chuck Pagano? Neapolitan Dynamite? Karamel Sutra? Cherry Garcia? All I know is that after watching the new defensive coordinator call overload blitzes and send cornerbacks after the QB on third down in the preseason, I can’t wait to see what he’s hiding from us.
3. The Ravens were looking for more explosive plays on offense after their lack of speed killed them in 2010. That’s why they traded for Lee Evans, went with youth at tight end and brought in Vonta Leach to give Ray Rice some space. If this game was any indication, the Ravens might accomplish that goal. Evans turned on the jets to beat speedy cornerback DeAngelo Hall for a 35-yard score. Tight end Ed Dickson had three catches for 57 yards, including a 33-yard catch-and-run. And Ray Rice averaged 5.5 yards per carry behind Leach and busted out a 22-yard run. This offense should be fun to watch this season.
4. Another night, another starting offensive line combination. The Ravens surrendered four quarterback sacks, and at one point, the entire line was called for a false start. I worry that chemistry is going to be a bigger issue than talent for this group. Two starters, Matt Birk and Marshal Yanda, have combined to play in just one preseason game, and the recently-signed Bryant McKinnie will likely start at one of the two tackle positions. The offensive line didn’t get a chance to jell last summer and it carried over into the season. With the Ravens playing such a critical game in Week 1, they can’t let it happen again.
5. We’re three games into the preseason, and second-round pick Torrey Smith is already being labeled a bust by some fans. I know the Ravens have a poor record when it comes to drafting and developing receivers, but let’s give him time to grow. Yes, he’s dropped some passes in the preseason, and yes, it looks like his head is spinning out there. Smith’s development has been hindered by the lengthy lockout. Cut the kid a break.
6. Speaking of patience, cut Domonique Foxworth a break, too. Foxworth is working his way back from a major knee injury and might not be up to full speed until the regular season. Last summer, we were talking about how devastating that loss was. Now we’re talking about the Ravens trading him away for whatever they can get. How soon we have forgotten how important Foxworth was this time a year ago.
7. You have to pick your spots when nitpicking in the preseason, but one alarming trend that could rear its head in the regular season is how the defense plays in the two-minute drill. For a second consecutive week, the Ravens allowed a touchdown in the final minute of the first half. On each scoring play, one of the cornerbacks got lost in coverage. Last week it was Cary Williams. This week it was Jimmy Smith, who got caught looking into the backfield. Ravens coach John Harbaugh called Rex Grossman marching the Redskins down the field “disappointing.” I can think of something less family-friendly to call it.