The Baltimore Ravens lost their first game of the preseason, falling to the Carolina Panthers, 34-27, on Aug. 22 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
It was the third game of the preseason schedule, traditionally the game in which the first-string personnel see the most action. Most NFL head coaches allow the starters to play well into the second half before shelving them entirely for the final game. But the Ravens’ offensive stars needed all the extended playing time they could get after their poor start against the Panthers.
Sixth-year quarterback Joe Flacco led a scoring drive on the first possession of the game, as the reigning Super Bowl MVP ran a no-huddle offense and connected with newly-signed slot receiver Brandon Stokely, among others. Flacco easily moved the offense down the field before running back Ray Rice capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
“We opened the game the way we want to play and know how we can play,” Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “We were crisp, we were fast and we were in rhythm.”
But that’s where Baltimore’s success in the first half ended. The Ravens’ next four possessions resulted in two punts, a fumble returned for a Panthers’ defensive touchdown, and two picks—including an interception returned for another Panthers’ touchdown.
“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.”
Flacco and the starters stayed in during the third quarter, and eventually began to play well; he led the team to 10 points, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Marlon Brown. The Ravens’ starters then sat for the rest of the game near the end of the third quarter; Flacco finished completing 18-for-24 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown and two picks.
But despite the offensive struggles Baltimore’s starting defense looked very sharp throughout the game. They held Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton to just 10-for-19 passes completed, 99 yards passing. Carolina’s offense didn’t score a touchdown the entire game, though they scored on three defensive touchdowns and on a punt return for a touchdown.
“Very pleased about most everything about the game,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “I like the way we played, I liked how we played. I just didn’t like the four returns for touchdowns.”