The Baltimore Ravens made the most of their first preseason game with a 44-16 lopsided road victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fans were eager to see how the rebuilt Ravens would perform after losing many key players from last season’s Super Bowl championship team. Although preseason play results don’t hold much value, it’s safe to assume fans were satisfied with how both the Ravens’ starters and reserves looked in Tampa.

The Ravens’ first team offensive and defensive units played just the first quarter before they were benched as expected. But while they were in, they showed glimpses of a team prepared to defend its Super Bowl title.

Quarterback Joe Flacco and the offensive unit didn’t look stellar, but they also didn’t look terrible. Flacco left the game after completing seven of nine passes for 57 yards, moving the ball down the field during the two series he played, but failing to score a touchdown. He was also intercepted while trying to pick up a first down on 3rd-and-15.

Flacco looked as if he was still adjusting to playing without two of his most reliable targets from last season: veteran receiver Anquan Boldin, who was traded to the 49ers, and Dennis Pitta, who recently suffered a season-ending knee injury. Third year receiver Torrey Smith was the only receiver to catch a pass from Flacco; the rest of his passes were caught by fullback Vonta Leach and running back Ray Rice.

“I think for the most part, it felt pretty good, and not just in terms of finally being back out here,” Flacco said. “I felt like we operated OK for being this early and that the offensive line played pretty well.”

The starting offensive line was solid, especially considering the absence of Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda who was resting. They gave up just one sack during a stunt-delayed blitz by Tampa’s defense, which pushed the Ravens back during their first possession and ultimately led to Flacco’s interception on third down. However during rest of the first quarter, the line brought a great push up front and offered decent blocking.

But the most impressive starters for the Ravens were on defense, as the starting unit came out strong and fast in the first quarter. They showed power up front in stopping the run, and showed speed and quickness in pass coverage. The game marked the first time in Ravens history that the season started without star linebacker Ray Lewis, who retired, and the first time in a decade without all-pro safety Ed Reed, who signed with the Houston Texans.

Newly-acquired middle linebacker Darryl Smith did a fine job controlling the defense, leading the team with five tackles, and safeties Michael Huff and James Ihegdibo played sharp in Reed’s place. The starting defensive unit gave up several big plays, but they still easily held Tampa out of the end zone. Perhaps the most impressive starter was new defensive tackle Chris Canty, who helped stop the run and came up with a crushing sack on Buccaneers’ starting quarterback Josh Freeman.

“You don’t want to play too much, but you have to get that dust off and get your eyes right,” new defensive captain Terrell Suggs said. “It was good being back out here with the boys.”

The Ravens trailed, 3-0, when their starters left the game, but that didn’t last long with the backups in. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor led the second-string unit to a 44-point outburst through the remaining three quarters. Taylor completed 13-of-23 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, one caught by reserve receiver LaQuan Williams. Williams also scored a second touchdown by falling on a blocked punt in the end zone. Backup running back Bernard Pierce was also impressive, scoring on a 20-yard touchdown run.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor