Air Show

Flacco Is Sharp As Offense Strikes In Passing Game

Missed Field Goal A Concern

August 30, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Ravens' passing attack might not be flashy, but it proved effective Saturday night.

Methodically driving the Ravens downfield, Joe Flacco threw for 247 yards and a touchdown in a 17-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

In the most extensive action for their starters this preseason, the Ravens (3-0 this preseason) pushed their strong running game off to the side and quieted those clamoring for another wide receiver - at least for one night.

Flacco looked over the middle for Derrick Mason (six catches for 71 yards). He dumped the ball off to running back Ray Rice (eight receptions for 67 yards) with great success. He even got reacquainted with tight end Todd Heap (four catches for 35 yards and a touchdown).

By the time he left midway through the third quarter, Flacco completed 23 of 28 passes (82 percent) and finished with a 115.3 quarterback rating against the winless Panthers (0-3). In 19 games last season, Flacco threw for more than 200 yards in an entire game just four times.

"We were in a groove," Flacco said. "We had some great drives. I felt really good, and we felt like we were in a good rhythm. Anytime you're out there putting together drives like that, it feels good."

The Ravens' starting offense was nearly unstoppable as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron decided to throw the ball on 30 of the team's first 46 plays. As a result, 89 percent of the first-team's production (247 of 277 yards) came through the air.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh explained after the game that throwing the ball was the philosophy for this game, not necessarily for an entire season. The Ravens wanted to attack Carolina's soft spots - in between the safety and the corner as well as in front of the middle linebacker.

"We thought we could throw it last year, but I think we can throw it better this year," Harbaugh said.

Flacco's precise performance started on the Ravens' first drive, when the second-year quarterback completed all four of his passes for 46 yards. The series - on which the Ravens reached first-and-goal at the 1-yard line - stalled with two penalties (right tackle Michael Oher's false start and Flacco's delay of game) and a sack allowed by left tackle Jared Gaither.

To compound the mistake-filled possession, Steve Hauschka missed wide right on a 27-yard field goal, which likely hurt his chances to immediately wrap up the kicking job.

"The only disappointment is that we didn't come away with a touchdown on that first drive," Flacco said. "They got us to jump offside, and we can't let that happen. If you take away those stupid penalties, you'll probably have three touchdowns and a field goal. That puts us at 24 points, and that's what we have to work for."

On their second series, Flacco connected on his last three passes for 60 yards, hitting Heap for a 9-yard touchdown. Flacco's first touchdown pass of the preseason put the Ravens ahead 7-3 early in the second quarter.

"He had one-on-one with the linebacker," Flacco said of his touchdown to Heap. "I was just waiting for him to beat him and throw it over his head."

On their third drive, Flacco continued his hot streak, completing six of seven throws for 68 yards. Willis McGahee's 1-yard touchdown run extended the Ravens' advantage to 14-3 with 4:16 left in the second quarter.

The Ravens stuck with their strategy after halftime, as Flacco completed short passes to move into the red zone. All six of his passes were 12 yards or less.

A holding penalty on Oher derailed the drive, and Hauschka converted a 38-yard field goal for a 17-3 lead early in the third quarter.

"Our offensive line was firing off the ball today," Heap said. "The receivers were making big plays down the field, and the running backs were making catches underneath. Everybody was making plays, and I feel like we're right where we want to be."

While the Ravens' offense had its way with Carolina, the Ravens' defense accomplished its goal. A week after getting gashed on the ground, the Ravens' starting defense held the Panthers to 18 yards on eight carries (2.3-yard average). Carolina, though, was short-handed, sitting its top two running backs (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart).

The Ravens' starting defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in four quarters of play this preseason.

Carolina chipped away at the Ravens' lead after linebacker Ray Lewis (who had his right elbow wrapped for a few minutes on the sideline after hyperextending it) and safety Ed Reed left the game. Running back Decori Birmingham's 1-yard dive on fourth-and-goal closed the Panthers to within 17-10 with 11:39 left in the game.

The Panthers added a late field goal, but the Ravens' offense was able to run out the clock for the 17-13 victory.

"That's what's most exciting, the way we are clicking both offensively and defensively," Lewis said. "The bottom line is that everyone is lining up and playing fast. We're all playing well right now."

FINAL PRESEASON GAME

Ravens@Falcons, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

TV: Ch. 11, MASN

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Inside

Kicking competition still open PG 7

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