One week ago, the Ravens couldn’t move the ball until the starters’ final possession, early in the second quarter. They were stuck, lacking cohesion, and the result was no first downs in the opening stanza.
So although the unit produced just six points Friday, there was reason to be encouraged by the preseason home opener. Baltimore racked up 139 yards and nine first downs while holding the ball for nearly 10 minutes of the first quarter against the Lions.
The only thing missing was a pretty big hing to be without, however - touchdowns.
“You go into these games, and you kind of have a little bit you want to work on, and you won’t go out there and run everything. You have such a small amount of plays to actually draw from and see how well you played. That’s why when you get down there, you want to finish them off,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “I think if we were to play this game, and play all four quarters, it would have been a good one. It would have been interesting to see. We weren’t able to do it.
“That’s why when you do get those two chances, that’s why it’s all about finishing off, finishing off, and the biggest thing with that is if we’re going to be the offense that we want to be, in order to put up 30-some points every week, you have to score touchdowns. You don’t want to get in the business of just not converting and kicking.”
Flacco had a solid showing, completing seven of 12 passes for 79 yards and no interceptions. But he also didn’t complete a touchdown pass. His favorite target was LaQuan Williams, who had six balls thrown his way, but caught only two.
The positives to take from that first quarter, and the top unit’s performance altogether, was that there was a little rhythm, the Lions were backing up and making mistakes to the tune of 11 penalties, including five in the opening quarter.
The no-huddle offense had a little bit to do with it.
“I thought we threw the ball pretty well. I felt really comfortable. I thought we did a good job ... to keep them off balance a little bit,” Flacco said. “But we’ve just got to finish when we get down there.”
Coach John Harbaugh commented on where he thinks the team is as a whole.
“I like where we’re at in some ways and not in others. You can never predict it, that’s the thing. We’d like to be doing everything great, but you’re not going to peak really early, and it’s August,” he said. “We’ve got a long season in front of us. I think we’re growing in some areas, but we’re not doing everything we’re going to do, but neither are the guys on the other side. I think seeing guys kind of jell a little bit, develop what they are doing individually.
“I didn’t like our communication at times on defense, for instance, especially in the second half with the younger guys, and that’s stuff we still need to work on. We’ve got lots of stuff to work on, but that’s going to continue into September, October and November once we make our team up. That’s how football is.”
One troubling area that continued to be a concern was the running game.
Ray Rice hasn’t been given much work, but he hasn’t been effective in his limited action, rushing eight times for 16 yards while making two catches for 11 yards through two games. Part of it is he’s focusing on different areas he needs to improve. But those numbers are still a tad low.
Rice expressed that he’s never satisfied, but certainly not now.
“I’m never really where I want to be because I’m always working on getting better. I know where I’m at, and I know where my role is on this team,” he said. “I just get in there and try to work on things that I need to work on. Today, I got that done. Today, I worked on my one-back stuff. I wasn’t in there in the two-back sets. I worked on more of the one-back and pass-routes, getting my checks with Joe and getting a good tempo.”
Like Flacco, Rice was pleased with some of what he saw from the first-team unit Friday.
“Overall, we found our tempo, and we were able to route the ball,” he said. “We just have to finish when we get down there.”