PHILADELPHIA — It would be cliche to say the NFL’s self-proclaimed Dream Team turned the Baltimore Ravens’ preseason opener Thursday into a nightmare. But the Philadelphia Eagles certainly exploited enough areas to provide some sleepless nights for the Ravens.
The Ravens’ 13-6 loss will increase concerns that the team needs to add another wide receiver, right tackle and backup quarterback.
“I think we’re going to be a good football team,” Coach John Harbaugh said. “We have a chance to be a great football team, and that’s going to be on us and how much we can improve from now until next Friday. That’s our next test. We should make our most improvement over the next week, and we are determined to do that.”
All three sacks in the first half were allowed by the Ravens’ tackles, and the number of times that Michael Oher, Oniel Cousins and Jah Reid were beaten doubled that amount. Anquan Boldin and the young receivers combined for two catches in the first half. And rookie sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech) threw two interceptions, including one deep inside the red zone, before walking off the field in the fourth quarter with an apparent head injury.
The standouts for the Ravens were tight end Dennis Pitta and linebacker Paul Kruger. Pitta did his best Todd Heap impersonation with some athletic catches, and Kruger seemed to be everywhere on the field.
But the lasting impression wasn’t what the Ravens have. It’s what they need.
The frustration peaked for the Ravens in the third quarter, when it appeared that cornerback Lardarius Webb returned a fumble 93 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. But officials overturned the score after reviewing the play, saying third-string quarterback Mike Kafka had his arm going forward when Ravens rookie Pernell McPhee knocked the ball loose.
Instead of a Ravens touchdown, the Eagles kicked a 24-yard field goal to extend their lead to 13-3.
The preseason started perfectly for the Ravens when Pitta made an acrobatic, 27-yard catch down the seam on the team’s first offensive play. The other big play on the series came on third and seven, when Ray Rice turned a short pass in the left flat into a 21-yard gain.
The promising drive ended with a six-yard loss by Rice and two incompletions by Joe Flacco. Billy Cundiff’s 53-yard field goal ricocheted off the left upright to give the Ravens a 3-0 lead.
That’s where most of the Ravens’ highlights ended.
To start his only drive of the game, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick hit Jason Avant for a 20-yard pass before burning the Ravens’ secondary deep. After Chris Carr bit on a fake, Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper outran Ed Reed for a 42-yard catch to the Ravens 2-yard line.
On third and goal, Vick connected with tight end Brent Celek for a three-yard touchdown. While Celek is only 10 pounds bigger than Jameel McClain, he powered his way past the Ravens linebacker around the goal line for the only touchdown of the first half.
Flacco’s final drive ended with a sack created when no one got open, a common occurrence for his cameo appearance. There has been some concern about the Ravens’ passing attack after losing five of the team’s top seven pass catchers from a season ago.
“These guys are doing a good job,” Flacco said. “As you could see tonight, we’ve got guys like Dennis [Pitta] who are making plays. All these young guys are out there fighting and making plays. That’s exciting to watch. Like I said from the beginning, it’s tough to lose [veteran players], but you have to move on, and I’m confident we have the guys who can step up and do it.”
Of Flacco’s six passes, only two went to wide receivers and none came away with a catch. ESPN reported Thursday that the Buffalo Bills could trade Lee Evans over the next couple of days, and it’s unclear whether the Ravens are interested in the deep threat.
Flacco finished 3 for 6 for 60 yards on two drives.
— Baltimore Sun
●PRESEASON GAMES: New England rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett played the whole second half and drove the Patriots to touchdowns on his first four series in a 47-12 win over visiting Jacksonville. Blaine Gabbert completed 9 of 16 passes for 85 yards for the Jaguars in the first half. . . .
Philip Rivers went 5 for 6 while leading an 89-yard scoring drive in his only series for the host Chargers, but Seattle’s Thomas Clayton rushed for a tiebreaking 25-yard touchdown with 3:05 remaining to lead the Seahawks to a 24-17 victory in San Diego. . . .
Denver’s Tim Tebow completed 6 of 7 passes for 91 yards and ran twice for 15 yards, but Dallas beat the visiting Broncos, 24-23. Stephen McGee threw a 13-yard touchdown pass and a two-point conversion with 15 seconds remaining to lift the Cowboys.
●TITANS: Tennessee officials are ready to make Chris Johnson the highest-paid running back in NFL history. The general manager says they just need Johnson to show up in training camp to finalize that extension. Johnson was the 24th overall pick in 2008. But he has more yards rushing (4,598) than any other running back in the NFL over the past three years, and has made the Pro Bowl in all three of his seasons.
●PACKERS: Ahman Green, Green Bay’s all-time leading rusher, announced his retirement. Green rushed for 8,322 yards in eight seasons playing for the Packers.
— Associated Press