Ravens’ first-team offense starts with statement (Panthers up 21-7)

Now that’s more like it.

After a choppy, uneven and unsightly start to the preseason, the Ravens’ first-team offense started its night by moving right down the field with easily its best drive in three exhibition contests.

Coach John Harbaugh had called out the run blocking and running game overall. So Ray Rice opened the drive with a 13-yard scamper, nearly doubling the 17 yards he had gained on the ground on 11 carries entering the contest. In all, Rice had four carries for 24 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown, on the Ravens’ first possession.

Quarterback Joe Flacco continued to do his thing, going 5-for-5 for 45 yards, hooking up with Brandon Stokely and Jacoby Jones twice each while also connecting with Visanthe Shiancoe.

The Ravens converted four first downs on the nine-play, 69-yard drive that ate 4 minutes, 18 seconds off the clock.

Having guard Marshal Yanda back certainly helps. So does having receivers Stokley and Dallas Clark on the field - both started the contest.

That looked a whole lot more like the unit that was so critical in the team’s Super Bowl run last season. Reason to be encouraged so far tonight at M&T Bank Stadium.

Update: The Ravens’ second drive wasn’t quite as pretty: Three incomplete passes and a punt - that was returned 75 yards by Ted Ginn Jr. for a Panthers touchdown.

That tied the game at 7-7 and Baltimore has the ball back with a chance to atone very quickly.

Update II: With a roster crunch coming at wide receiver, mistakes will be magnified and Tandon Doss just made a big one.

The third-year wideout appeared to run the wrong route and cornerback Drayton Florence took advantage, jumping the pass and returning it 71 yards for a pick-six. Afterward, Flacco was shown pointing Doss’ mistake out to him, gesturing the route Doss should’ve run.

The interception return made it 14-7, and less than a minute later, Bernard Pierce gave Doss some company in the mistake column.

Pierce fumbled inside the Ravens’ 10-yard line and Thomas Davis recovered at the 2 before rolling into the end zone for another Panthers touchdown.

That made it three - THREE - touchdown returns for Carolina on the way to a 21-7 lead.