“Very pleased about most everything about the game,” John Harbaugh said. “I like the way we played, I liked how we played.” Harbaugh had every reason to be pleased. The Ravens defense played well. Ray Rice was running well. The offense moved the ball. However, there was one little thing….
“I just didn’t like the four returns for touchdowns,” the dissatisfied Ravens coach admitted.
Carolina Panther’s special teams and opportunistic defense were exceptional, and the story in this game.
Ted Ginn Jr. showed amazing speed in returning a punt 74 yards for a touchdown. Thomas Davis scored on a 2-yard fumble return and linebacker Luke Kuechly picked off another of Joe Flacco’s passes late in the second quarter to set up a 54-yard field goal and a 24-7 lead. Late in the third quarter, D.J. Moore intercepted a pass by Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and ran 31 yards for a touchdown to make it 34-17.
For the game, it was one sided. Carolina only generated 173 total yards to Baltimore’s 357, and they only held the ball for 24:15 vs. 35:45. Nevertheless, the most important stat, the score, was definitely in Carolina’s favor.
“Turnovers are great. It’s paying off big-time,” said Kuechly, the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. “We’ve had quite a few turnovers in each game and that’s huge for us. Defensive coaches have done a good job of stressing it.”
Kuechly is having a monster preseason. He thumped the Ravens for 7 tackles, including 4 solo, and 2 passes defended.
“We obviously turned the ball over, and you lose more games than you win in this league when you do that,” Flacco sighed. “With what we did tonight, we’re not going to win a lot of football games.”
Flacco, fresh from his Super Bowl MVP and subsequent new contract, has not had a memorable preseason. In throwing for 2 TDs, he’s also thrown for 3 interceptions.
“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,” Flacco said.
The game opened up looking like a blowout, as the Ravens offense was precise and deadly.
“We opened the game the way we want to play and know how we can play,” Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said at halftime.
“We were crisp, we were fast and we were in rhythm.”
After the first series, the Ravens offense shot itself in the foot. After 3 incomplete passes, the subsequent punt allowed the Panthers to even up the score.
In the next quarter, Flacco attempted to force a third down long yardage pass, and was picked off by Florence and returned for a touchdown.
The next offensive set of downs ended when Bernard Pierce was slammed by Kuechley. Davis picked up the ball and rumbled into the endzone. 21-7.
“When you turn it over and give up a special teams touchdown, you get in a big hole,” Harbaugh said. “We have to protect the ball better.”
One more week of preseason to find the handle on the ball. The Ravens are the defending Super Bowl Champs. The fans are hopeful they resolve the preseason issues soon. And fan man? He’s still happy with his stylish Ravens hat.
Written by: @milroyigglesfan