The Ravens made improving their passing attack and pass rush a priority this offseason, bringing in new receiving threats and emphasizing getting to the quarterback in offseason minicamps.
Both of those aspects were strong tonight, as the Ravens opened their preseason with a 17-12 win over the Panthers.
Joe Flacco went 8-of-12 for 120 yards and a touchdown, connecting with all three of his top targets and leading two scoring drives. He played just over a quarter, and finished with a sparkling quarterback rating of 127.1.
Flacco's last pass of the night was a 30-yard touchdown toss to Mark Clayton, who ran a simple go-route and jumped into the air to bring in the TD.
"They were playing single-high coverage, and Mark was one-on-one on the edge," Flacco said. "I just had to give him time to get on top of the guy, and he made an unbelievable play."
Said Clayton of the touchdown: "I caught it. It was a go-route."
Well, there you go.
Flacco appeared comfortable with his new weapons, most notably Anquan Boldin. He looked for the three-time Pro Bowl receiver on a deep route on the opening offensive play of the game, and although he had to check the ball down to Derrick Mason underneath, he found Boldin later on for a first down.
The Ravens' pass rush was just as impressive as the new aerial attack, as the defense posted seven sacks, and had Panthers quarterbacks running for their lives all night.
Antwan Barnes didn't get in on the sack party, but he was all over the field, flying off the edge and forcing two holding penalties from Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross.
As always, there are some areas that need improvement, specifically pass protection (Flacco was sacked twice by Panthers defensive end Tyler Brayton, who blew by Michael Oher and Ben Grubbs on separate plays), and ball security (the Ravens had three fumbles and a couple dropped snaps in the wet conditions).
But for the most part, it was a solid start to the 2010 campaign for head coach John Harbaugh's team.
"We did some things well and some not, and that's good for the first preseason game," Harbaugh said. "We have enough teachable moments."