The backups once more provided most of the excitement tonight as the unbeaten Baltimore Ravens used an 89-yard pass play and safety to get their second preseason win, 19-6, over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
"Any time you can come in on the road, preseason or otherwise, and particularly against the defending NFC champs and do some of the things we did is encouraging," said Ravens Coach Brian Billick.
As happened last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, reserve quarterback Tony Banks triggered the fourth-quarter points surge. He connected with wide receiver Patrick Johnson for 57 yards to set up one touchdown and later hit Johnson in stride down the right sideline for the long distance score.
Defensive tackle Larry Fitzpatrick, who helped the Ravens stop the Falcons on fourth down just before the Banks-to-Johnson touchdown, tackled quarterback Danny Kanell for a safety with less than five minutes left. Atlanta's points came on two field goals by Morten Andersen.
However, the Ravens also were embarrassed by mistakes. Billick called the numerous miscues the Ravens committed against the Eagles "easily correctable." They weren't, or at least not by the most important players, the first-stringers.
In the first 15 minutes, the Ravens fumbled twice and were called for six penalties. Quarterback Scott Mitchell had both fumbles, his fourth in two games. One was unforced, on a poor exchange from center, and the other came after a hard sack, but left tackle Jonathan Ogden recovered.
Two penalties were on the defense for offsides, two on special teams for holding, and two on the offense for holding. Because both holds on the offense came on the same play, only five penalties were marked off.
The problems on special teams extended from the 10-7 victory over the Eagles, and were especially frustrating because the Ravens usually devote the hour-long afternoon practices to that unit.
The first-stringers played the first half and produced a well-executed drive that ended with a 24-yard field goal by Scott Bentley. That brought the Ravens to a 3-3 tie three minutes 21 seconds before halftime.
After a penalty by Tyrus McCloud negated a decent kickoff return and a fumbled snap, the Ravens moved smartly from their nine-yard line. They converted two third downs, including an 18-yard pass to Jermaine Lewis when 16 yards were needed to move the chains. Mitchell and Lewis also produced 11 and 19-yard gains on the drive.
On first and goal from the 10, Priest Holmes gained four yards, but Mitchell twice was hurried on passes into the end zone.
Lewis had not been as impressive during training camp and in the first preseason game as he and Billick had hoped, but gained 65 yards on four receptions. His punt return of about 15 yards was nullified by a hold on backup safety Jermaine Derricott.
With the exception of a modest surge by the Falcons early in the game and a longer one midway through the second quarter that ended in 51- and 25-yard field goals by Andersen, Baltimore's first team defense played adequately.
The Falcons gained just 32 yards on that first drive and 57 on the second. Quarterback Chris Chandler played slightly more than a quarter, and running Jamal Anderson made his first preseason appearance after missing much of the early training camp negotiating a contract; he gained 16 yards on three carries while playing just two possessions.
Early in the fourth quarter, Johnson flew by his defender and Banks lofted a 57-yard pass that he caught at the 4-yard line. On the next play, third-string running back Jay Graham bulled over right guard and into the end zone to lift Baltimore to a 10-6 lead.
Atlanta's Rondell Menendez returned the kickoff 57 yards to the Baltimore 46, before being tackled by kicker Matt Stover. Kanell completed a 26-yard pass to backup wide receiver Jammi German and then hit another backup wide receiver, Eugene Baker, inside the 11. The interior of the Ravens defense then held on third and fourth downs, each with less than a yard to go. Falcons Coach Dan Reeves used a replay timeout to challenge the spot after a dive by Harold Green on fourth down. But the on-the-field judgment was upheld.