Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco watches second-half action from the sidelines after he directed the offense in a sloppy first half. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

— Torrey Smith’s blistering 77-yard touchdown sprint awakened a sleepy crowd and gave the home team an early lead against the Atlanta Falcons, but it couldn’t save another shaky preseason performance by quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ first-team offense.

Flacco and the offensive starters played the entire first half and even with the long catch-and-run by Smith on their first play of the second drive, they accounted for just 131 yards and three first downs on six full drives. Flacco also was intercepted by Asante Samuel on one of them, setting up a two-yard touchdown run by Jacquizz Rodgers on the next play.

The Falcons ended the first half with a 20-7 lead in the Ravens’ preseason home opener in front of an announced 70,527 at M&T Bank Stadium. But the Ravens came back in the second half to beat the Falcons, 27-23.

“That first half was about as poorly as we could play,” said Ravens Coach John Harbaugh, whose team finished with seven penalties for 68 yards after the coaching staff made that a point of emphasis during the week. “I can’t remember us playing worse since we came here.”

Flacco finished 7 of 9 for 118 yards. He threw one touchdown and one interception, but three of the six drives that he directed resulted in three-and-outs and another ended with the ball in Samuel’s hands after the quarterback tried to force the ball to Jacoby Jones.

In two preseason games, Flacco is 14 of 18 for 157 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He’s led the team to points on just 1 of 8 drives.

“We were just sloppy,” Flacco said. “We never got into a rhythm. The one drive we did score on, but it was just one play. We were just sloppy — penalties, mistakes and stuff like that. We just weren’t good, and we didn’t play well. We’ve just got to go back to practice, continue to improve and when we come out here, we’ve got to play better.”

Aside from Smith, who had two catches for 85 yards and scored his long touchdown on a slant route, the Ravens’ other top receiving options struggled. Brandon Stokley made his debut after being signed earlier this week, but did not make any catches.

Rookie seventh-round Aaron Mellette did catch a touchdown pass for the second straight game, hauling in a 40-yard strike from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. But by then, many of the Ravens’ fans had long headed for the exits.

Some empty seats at the stadium were an ever-present reminder that this is still the preseason and drawing any definitive conclusions this early is foolish. But the frustration of the first-team offense was palpable.

“The biggest thing about tonight is that penalties really set us back and kept us from getting into a rhythm,” Smith said. “There were too many mistakes, but they’re all correctable. We know what we did wrong and we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be, but that’s what the preseason is for.”

— Baltimore Sun