Sloppy Ravens have work to do before season opener
The Baltimore Ravens have just over three weeks to smooth out a variety of flaws, many of which were exposed during a horrid performance they're thankful took place in August.
In falling to the Detroit Lions 27-12 on Friday night, Baltimore (No. 5 in AP Pro32) yielded 507 yards, didn't score a touchdown, had a punt blocked and committed penalties on two kick returns for touchdowns.
It was only a preseason game, and the result won't have any impact on the Ravens' bid this season to reach the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year. But there's more than a small bit of concern over an offense that produced only four field goals and a retooled defense that didn't get a sack or an interception while allowing Matthew Stafford to throw for 184 yards and two touchdowns in four possessions.
''I like where we're at in some ways and not in others,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''We'd like to be doing everything great, but you're not going to peak really early, and it's August. We've got a long season in front of us. I think we're growing in some areas, but we're not doing everything we're going to do.''
The offense chalked up first downs, but not touchdowns. When the field got short, the Ravens came up short. Baltimore went 2 for 15 on third down, compared to 6 for 14 by the Lions.
''We just need to finish the drives - finish the drives on defense and get off the field on third downs - make catches, those kinds of things,'' Harbaugh said. ''And, we need to pick up more points.''
In defense of the offense, Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice saw limited action and left tackle Bryant McKinnie is still working himself into shape after missing the start of camp with a strained back. Against Detroit, Michael Oher started on the left side, Kelechi Osemele played right tackle and McKinnie operated with the second team.
''We're still learning and guys are still getting used to things, but we're getting better every day,'' Oher insisted.
Fortunately for the Ravens, the Lions and Atlanta Falcons aren't on the schedule during the regular season. In the preseason opener, Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown in only one quarter. It didn't get any better for Baltimore against Detroit's Calvin Johnson, who finished with five catches for 111 yards and a score.
''We still have to put that work in, especially in the back end,'' cornerback Lardarius Webb said. ''We say we want to be the best, but we have to come out and play like we're the best. It all starts in practice. I guarantee you that went we go back to practice (Sunday), we're going to work like we're playing four quarters.''
Things should improve by the time the Ravens open the season at home against Cleveland on Sept. 10, if for no other reason some of the regulars on defense will receive more playing time. Safety Ed Reed, for instance, started and stuck around only long enough to work up a sweat.
But the defense, long the Ravens' strong suit, is a long way from peaking. First-year coordinator Dean Pees loves to blitz, but his all-out rush did more harm than good against the Lions. Not only did Baltimore fail to get to Stafford, but Johnson flourished while operating against 1-on-1 coverage.
''They were blitzing a lot,'' Johnson said. ''When that happens, they leave their DBs on an island.''
The Ravens emerged from the game without serious injury. Wide receiver LaQuan Willams and fullback Vonta Leach both had minor ankle sprained, and linebacker Sergio Kindle sustained a shoulder burner.
''That's good news,'' Harbaugh said.
The bad news: Just about everything else.
''I didn't like our communication at times on defense, for instance, especially in the second half with the younger guys,'' Harbaugh said. ''That's stuff we still need to work on. We've got lots of stuff to work on, but that's going to continue into September, October and November once we make our team up. That's how football is.''
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