BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 19: The Kansas City Chiefs defense lines up against the Baltimore Ravens offense during the first half of a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 19, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Following the Baltimore Ravens 13-6 pre-season opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, they put up 31 points on the Kansas City Chiefs in last night's 31-13 victory. However, 21 of those points were scored in the fourth quarter when most, if not all of the team's starters were long out of the game watching from the sidelines as the reserves put the game out of reach.
So after scoring their first TD of the pre-season, is the Ravens offense ready for the regular season and more specifically, the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom they face on September 11th in the NFL regular season opener? While most true Ravens fans know that for the most part, the outcomes of these exhibition games are meaningless, but the important thing is that the team gets to try out formations, sequences, and combinations of players to see who will fill those last precious roster spots, who will be signed to the Practice Squad and who will be sent home to look for other employment.
Although the Baltimore offense has only scored one offensive TD with their starters on the field in two games, the chemistry seemed tighter, especially the first opportunity to see new Ravens WR Lee Evans, who seemed to connect with QB Joe Flacco right off the bat with three catches, including a nice, sweet long pass that Flacco beautifully floated and Evans ran under for the 43 yard reception.
FB Vonta Leach made his presence known, not only with his bruising blocking, but also catching the ball and making his tackler pay a heavy price. His lead block helped open the hole that Ray Rice, much less a Mack Truck, could have run through, with Rice scampering for a 26 yard TD run.
In the two pre-season games, Flacco has thrown for 184 yards, completing 15 of 30 (50%) with no interceptions, but no TD passes as well. regardless of who has been under center, though, the Ravens offensive line has given up six sacks, although none is last night's game. The o-line continues to be the biggest cause for concern, as it has not yet fielded its expected starting lineup as a group yet, and the status of the health of veteran center Matt Birk remains unclear with the Steelers game only three short weeks away
Next up for Baltimore are the Washington Redskins in the third and easily most important game of the pre-season. Not so much because these are the Ravens I-95 neighbors with no love lost between the two team's fans, but because the third exhibition game is usually the one where the starters play deeper into the second half than any other game and will probably only pay a few series at most in the fourth and final per-season contest.
The Ravens do not need to win next week, despite the fans desire to see DC leave Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium with their heads down. However, the offense still needs to prove they can move the ball, not just on the ground which they have done well so far, but through the aerial attack that needs to spread out defenses and use the middle of the field, while protecting Joe Flacco by giving him enough time to find his open receiver and not take such a beating both before and after delivering the ball.
With those hated Steelers first up in the regular season, the Ravens need to start off strong and set the tone for the 2011 regular season by proving they can beat Pittsburgh with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger for the first time. A solid performance in next week's game will go a long way to increasing the Ravens and their fan's confidence that that will happen come September 11th.