Starters not first-rate

Play of Ravens reserves in 2nd half overcomes miscues in win vs. Eagles

Ravens 20 Eagles 10


A day after breaking training camp, the Ravens realized they still have a lot to learn.

From confusion on their hurry-up offense to critical penalties on defense, the Ravens starters were left scratching their heads last night in a 20-10 preseason win over the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium.

After last week's masterpiece drive in the preseason opener, the Ravens offense looked ragged in the final two possessions of the first half. It was a series of mishaps that included quarterback Steve McNair tripping over a lineman on one play and then fum bling after getting stripped from behind on another.

But the most bizarre happening occurred at the end of the first half, when the Ravens ran the ball on third down instead of stopping the clock deep in Eagles' territory. Without any timeouts, the Ravens failed to get off their field-goal attempt as time expired in the first half.

"We had plenty of time." coach Brian Billick said. "[The officials] didn't get it spotted. I guess it's preseason for them, too. We can't complain. We made a fair share of mistakes."

McNair wasn't as strong as his debut, but his encore was efficient.

He completed 14 of 18 passes (78 percent) for 148 yards, re-connecting with his old Tennessee Titans receiver Derrick Mason (seven catches for 72 yards).

In one of the more positive signs of the night, McNair had the Ravens in Eagles' territory on all four of his drives. The only trouble was the Ravens came away with just one field goal.

"We've got to finish [drives] now. That's the main ingredient." McNair said. "There's no sense in going out there and taking six or seven minutes off the lcock and not getting anything from it. We've just got to dig down deep and get the ball in the end zone."

On his first series, McNair moved the Ravens to the Eagles' 38, where his third-down pass went behind tight end Todd Heap and got knocked down.

On his second one, he converted three third downs with in termediate passes, but running back Mike Anderson was stopped behind the line on third-and-one. The Ravens settled for a Matt Stover 30-yard field goal to cut Philadelphia's lead to 10-3 midway through the second quarter.

The last two possessions by the starting offense made Billick cringe.

McNair fumbled at the Philadelphia 30 when Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse beat tackle Tony Pashos and stripped McNair from behind. The Ravens' offense got the ball right back after line backer Ray Lewis poked it away from running back Reno Mahe.

"I got a pretty good swipe on the man." said Lewis, who missed the final 10 games of last season with a torn hamstring. "It felt so good because my crowd got energized again. It's just good to be back on the football field."

Three completions moved the Ravens to the Eagles' 17, where confusion began to reign. With no timeouts, the Ravens ran the ball on third-and-three instead of throwing it (an incompletion would have stopped the clock).

As the final 12 seconds ticked, the Ravens tried to rush their field-goal team on the field but time expired before Stover could attempt a 33-yarder.

"We moved the ball well enough, but we can't have things that stop drives like penalties or turnovers." offensive coordinator Jim Fassel said. "I was pleased with more than I was disappoint ed about."

Mistakes weren't isolated to the offense.

Even with the return of Ray Lewis - who received a mild applause in his first game back since last October - the Ravens' starting defense was extremely sloppy.

Penalties hurt the Ravens defense on its first series, as the Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead.

The officials' flags began flying on the first offensive play of the game. Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle was called for pass interference, a questionable call considering Rolle was in front of Philadelphia receiver Darnerien McCants and nearly intercepted the pass.

That 33-yard penalty represented half of the yards on the Eagles' opening drive, which ended with a 43-yard field goal by David Akers.

"He had position and he looked back to make the play." defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "I'm not sure how else to coach that one."

Philadelphia's second drive resulted in a touchdown, even though the Eagles shouldn't have crossed midfield.

On third-and-eight at the Eagles' 22-yard line, quarterback Donovan McNabb threw an incomplete pass that should have ended the possession. But Ravens linebacker Bart Scott was penalized for illegal contact, giving the Eagles a first down.

Philadelphia running back Correll Buckhalter, who was replacing injured starter Brian Westbrook, then took a shovel pass from McNabb and ran 48 yards to the 1-yard line.

McNabb found Mahe in the end zone on a short pass that went past the outstretched arm of linebacker Adalius Thomas. The first touchdown scored against the Ravens' starting defense this pre season increased Philadelphia's lead to 10-0 with 2:39 left in the first quarter.

"We expect so much of ourselves." Ryan said, "and it wasn't to our top standard."

The Ravens were penalized six times in the first half for 63 yards, with a majority of flags either stopping their own drives or extending the Eagles' ones.

But Billick seemed more preoccupied by the Eagles only having one penalty for 5 yards.

"I got to give compliments to the Philadelphia Eagles." Billick said. "It's amazing you go through a whole half and have that few penalties called. They're obviously doing a better job at it than we are."

The Ravens bounced back in the third quarter with their reserves.

Running back Musa Smith never broke stride on a 43-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 10. The Ravens then capitalized on an interception by Evan Oglesby, converting the turnover into a 30-yard Stover field goal to take a 13-10 lead.

The Ravens increased the margin to 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, when Kyle Boller hit Devard Darling for a 27-yard touchdown. Boller finished 4-for-7 for 115 yards, solid numbers considering he got sacked five times.

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