For a game the Ravens lost, whether it counted or not, coach John Harbaugh seemed to be in a good mood.
At the end of the day, the team escaped the 34-27 defeat relatively healthy with only backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor a concern. Both the first-team offense and defense had their best showings of the preseason - even if it was tainted a bit by four turnovers and four returns for touchdowns.
The running game and the rush defense both performed better than they had the last two weeks. Perhaps because the game didn’t count, Harbaugh was able to smile when it was over.
As for Taylor, the training staff is checking into a possible concussion.
“He went through the concussion protocol there, so we’ll just have to play that one by ear. Have not heard anything on that,” Harbaugh said. “Other than that, came out healthy, very pleased about that. Very pleased about really most everything about the game. I liked the way we played. I liked how we played. Just didn’t like the four returns for touchdowns. The next time that happens, that needs to be us doing that rather than them. That was obviously the difference in the game.”
The Ravens outgained the Panthers 357-173 and had 77 offensive plays to the Panthers’ 50. The positive reason? The defense got off the field in a hurry. The negative reason? Two interceptions returned for touchdowns, one punt returned for six points and a fumble returned for a score.
But the defense did its job, allowing just 98 yards through the air and 75 on the ground while sacking Cam Newton three times.
“This game, we really wanted to correct some issues we had last week, just as far as playing fundamental football and with proper technique,” linebacker Daryl Smith said. “We came out, and I think for the most part we did that. We’ll definitely watch the film and see some things we can correct, but we’ll just have to see how that goes. It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t get the win tonight.”
Harbaugh lauded the defense, especially cornerback Jimmy Smith, who was routinely picked on a week ago.
“I thought they played well. I thought we stopped the run. That was a goal definitely going in,” Harbaugh said. “We got good pressure on the quarterback throughout the game, got a lot of hits, I believe. I look forward to seeing that on tape, and I thought our corners played well.
“Jimmy Smith played very well. He was physical at the line. They’ve got excellent receivers over there, and I think he did a nice job.”
Offensively, quarterback Joe Flacco had a rough day. He went 18-for-24 for 169 yards and a touchdown, which isn’t too bad. But he also was intercepted twice, nearly was picked off a third time and was sacked three times.
Flacco left the locker room without talking to the media, but spoke to a pool reporter after being removed from the game.
“We obviously turned the ball over, and you lose more games than you win in this league when you do that,” he said. “With what we did tonight, we’re not going to win a lot of football games doing that. At the same time, it was a lot of miscommunication, and I felt like we did a lot of really good things, too. In the regular season, we’re not going to be able to say that. We’ll have to come out here and fight and continue to get back in games. Tonight was one of those games that did a lot of good things, but we had some miscommunication and turned the ball over too much.”
Even though Flacco has one touchdown pass and four interceptions so far this preseason, Harbaugh isn’t too worried yet and thinks the offense is just working out the kinks.
I think it is that because Joe is not one to throw interceptions, as we all know. We’ll be concerned about them - Joe more than anybody,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll take a hard look at it with Jim (Caldwell) and Craig Ver Steeg. We’ll assess where we’re at with him. A lot of that is he’s trying to get a feel for guys. I can’t say everybody was exactly where they were supposed to be on routes or not.
“Joe will be the first to take responsibility - he has always been that way. I don’t expect that to be an issue this year, but we’ve got to make sure it’s not.”
Among the good things were the running game taking a leap forward. Ray Rice ran for 62 yards and a score after being held to 17 yards on 11 carries through the first two exhibitions.
“It was a good feeling,” left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. “I just want us to be more consistent at it, eliminate turnovers. But we’ve still got practice, we’ve still got a little time to get things in order.”
Rookie wideout Marlon Brown made a major case to make the team by catching all four passes thrown his way for 59 yards, including an impressive 24-yard touchdown. Brown leads the Ravens with six catches for 90 yards this preseason.
He felt he improved his chances with his performance while playing with the first team.
“Yes, for sure,” Brown said. “Just the fact that I went in the first quarter with the ones meant the guys upstairs have confidence in me and Aaron (Mellette) to put us in at that time.”
Brandon Stokley added three catches while Visanthe Shiancoe and Mellette were among a host of players with two apiece.
Harbaugh isn’t ready to handicap a heated roster crunch at receiver. But he did say he felt Brown is among those playing well.
“I think they all played well, I really do. I don’t have any problem with any of those guys,” Harbaugh said. “We have a bunch of guys that are probably going to play very well in this league over the next few years. They aren’t going to all be here, but they’re going to play somewhere, and I’m really kind of happy where we’re at with those guys.”