The Ravens' 24-10 preseason rout of the New York Giants brought mixed emotions to their passing attack Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
Injuries to Donte' Stallworth and Mark Clayton tempered the jubilation after scintillating performances by Joe Flacco and his wide receivers.
Flacco threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns in a little over one half of work as the Ravens sailed to their seventh straight preseason win. He went down the seam to Anquan Boldin (four catches for 52 yards and one touchdown). He connected over the middle to Todd Heap (six catches for 69 yards and one touchdown). He hit Derrick Mason (five catches for 35 yards) and Clayton (one catch for 20 yards) on the outside.
The Ravens (3-0) threw the ball at will, calling pass plays 80 percent of the time in the first half (37 of 46 plays). They threw it on the first 13 snaps of the game. They threw it so much that it seemed like offensive coordinator Cam Cameron drafted Flacco for his fantasy football team this week.
"Our plan coming out was throw the ball, throw the ball and throw the ball some more," Flacco said. "It was fun. I had a great time. We were clicking."
But the success was slightly dimmed by injuries to two of their top wide-outs. Stallworth, the Ravens' No. 4 receiver, broke his foot and will miss two months. The Ravens hope to get their best deep threat back "right around the bye week [at the end of October]," said coach John Harbaugh.
"It's a big blow for us because he's a guy that can help this team out, especially with his speed stretching the defense," Boldin said.
Clayton, the team's No. 3 wide receiver, took a hit to the head from Giants safety Antrel Rolle one play before Heap's touchdown. Rolle was penalized for a personal foul, and Clayton left the game with a mild concussion. He could be ready for the season opener against the New York Jets, which is 15 days away.
"It's obviously something we'll be careful with, but it shouldn't be a long-term thing," Harbaugh said of Clayton.
After Clayton and Stallworth, the Ravens' next receivers are Demetrius Williams (sprained ankle), Marcus Smith and rookie David Reed.
If the third preseason game is any indication of what's to come in a few weeks, this is a new look for the Ravens. When the Ravens played the Giants in the Super Bowl 10 years ago, they attempted 26 passes the entire game. On Saturday night, the Ravens threw 32 times in the first half.
"We're just starting to get comfortable with one another," Boldin said. "For us, we considered the half a real game. We tried to pick it up a little bit and get in sync because this is truly the first dress rehearsal ÃÂ before the regular season."
At a time when some of the fan base was clamoring for backup quarterback Marc Bulger, Flacco (21 of 34 passes for an 89.0 quarterback rating) silenced them with two touchdown drives in the second quarter, when he completed six of seven passes on each one.
The first series that ended with a touchdown was a signature one for Boldin, who was acquired this offseason in a trade with Arizona. Two plays after tossing a defender to the ground with a block, he beat Giants cornerback Courtney Brown to the inside and then caught a 9-yard pass thrown behind him for his first touchdown this preseason.
"The guy was pressing [and] Joe and I looked at one another," Boldin said. "We both felt that if I could beat him right away, Joe would be able to get the ball to me. The safety went the other way, and Joe hit me perfectly."
The passing attack showed its determination the next time the Ravens got the ball. After an illegal formation penalty took away a first-down pass play, Flacco completed a 10-yarder to Mason for another first down. After Flacco fumbled a snap on third-and-1, he hit Heap on an 11-yard slant on fourth down.
"We have confidence with this group on fourth-and-short," Cameron said, "and we'll continue to be aggressive."
Heap finished the drive by catching a 13-yard touchdown pass with safety Antrel Rolle (who was flagged for illegal contact) draped on his back. Flacco's second touchdown throw staked the Ravens to a 17-0 lead with 3:52 left.
"It was just a play where Joe had faith in me to go get the ball," Heap said. "I'm definitely glad to see it work. It's a play where you have to body the guy up and make a play."
The Ravens, who had trouble with fumbles this preseason, looked much sharper on offense. They maintained a fast tempo by going no huddle. They spread out the defense, splitting out three and four receivers on a regular basis.
The one disappointment for the offense came late in the final drive of the first half. Flacco's pass went off Boldin and to New York cornerback Corey Webster. It marked the only turnover for the starting offense.