New-look champs look strong
TAMPA, Fla.—The new-look Baltimore Ravens were tough, physical, and opportunistic—all good signs for a team seeking another run to the Super Bowl.
“We’re a very different team than we were, so we were really anxious to get on the field and just see who we are because we really don’t know in a lot of ways,” coach John Harbaugh admitted after last night’s 44-16 romp over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“So it’s a good thing we’ve got pre-season, obviously.”
Joe Flacco was sharp in his pre-season debut, second-year pro Bernard Pierce scored on a 20-yard run, and a revamped defence forced four turnovers before an announced crowd of 47,599 at Raymond James Stadium.
Back-up quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw a pair of TD passes, including a 21-yarder to third-stringer LaQuan Williams, who also recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.
“It’s good to see him step up and make plays,” Harbaugh said of Williams.
“Here’s a guy that just brings his lunch pail every single week, puts on his blue collar work shirt, and goes to work,” he noted.
“To see him make those plays, he’s got tremendous talent.”
Josh Freeman and the rest of Tampa Bay’s starters played sparingly, so most of Baltimore’s scoring came against back-ups and newcomers to a defence that ranked last in the NFL against the pass last season.
Flacco signed a $120.1-million contract after leading the Ravens to their second Super Bowl title. He worked two series—completing seven-of-nine passes for 57 yards and one interception.
Still, second-year Bucs’ coach Greg Schiano liked what he saw from his overhauled secondary early in the game.
“I thought we played competitively on defence . . . ones against ones,” he said.
Lavonte David sacked Flacco for a 10-yard loss and Danny Gorrer picked off a sideline throw intended for Jacoby Jones two plays later to stop Baltimore’s first possession.
“It felt pretty good, and not just in terms of finally being back out here,” Flacco remarked.
“I felt like we operated OK for being this early and that the offensive line played pretty well.
“There are a couple of things we need to clean up—like on the interception—because those are little things that we need to . . . get better at, so we can stay on the field and score points,” he reasoned.
Freeman’s first series ended with the fifth-year pro, who’s entering the final year of his contract as the third quarterback drafted in 2009, being sacked by Chris Canty.
He left the game on a better note, directing an 11-play, 56-yard drive that produced Derek Dimke’s 29-yard field goal.
“It felt good to get back out there,” Freeman said. “Playing a team like the Ravens, they’re going to blitz, they’re going to play man, they’re going to mix it up.
“We saw quite a bit during the short time [Baltimore’s starters] were in.”
Freeman completed four-of-seven passes for 34 yards in just under a quarter.
Rookie Mike Glennon took over on Tampa Bay’s third possession, teamed with tight end Tom Crabtree on a 61-yard catch-and-run on his first play, and led two first-half scoring drives.
Despite only playing 13 snaps, Freeman felt he accomplished what he set out to in a pre-season opener—mainly working off the rust of a long off-season.
“The reason for the pre-season is tuning up,” the Tampa Bay quarterback said.
In other pre-season action, Washington nipped Tennessee 22-21, Cincinnati dumped Atlanta 34-10, Cleveland beat St. Louis 27-19, Denver downed San Francisco 10-6, and Seattle pounded San Diego 31-10.