It didn't take long for the Baltimore Ravens to give the Atlanta Falcons fans something to cheer about. Baltimore was without some key starters on defense but that was no excuse for letting Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense march right down field for an easy touch down on their first drive of the game. The Ravens were unable to create any pressure on Ryan and that left him free to throw the ball all over the place to his outstanding receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones. When Ryan left the game the Falcons lead 14-0 but it could easily have been 21-0 had linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo jumped a slant rout for an interception on their second drive.
The offense was even worse than the defense for the first quarter of play. On the one side you had Matt Ryan who was given all day to throw the ball then there was poor Joe Flacco on the other side who constantly had someone in his face while trying to execute passing plays. I'm not sure what the issues were with the blocking schemes the Ravens were applying or if it was simply just guys getting beat one on one but whatever the problem was, it needs to be fixed, and fast, before someone gets hurt.
Once the offense did finally get going they looked pretty darn good though. Flacco made a few nice throes to Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and Vonta Leach. He then capped off the drive with a great throw over the middle to Ed Dickson for a touchdown in the front, center of the end zone. Coincidentally Dickson suffered a sprained wrist on this play and could be out for some time now. the Ravens now have a starting tight end duo of Billy Bajima and Devon Drew. I'm not sure how long Dickson or Pitta will be out but if either or both miss significant time the team may be forced to start looking for someone on the free agent market or a trade perhaps. I wonder if Todd Heap is available in Arizona?
After the touchdown drive at the beginning of the second quarter that was all she wrote for the starting offense. Second string quarterback Tyrod Taylor entered the game and played very well. He used his legs and his arm to continuously move the team down the field. Sure some drives stalled but Taylor was exciting to watch and seemed to make good use of the play-makers around him.
Wide receiver Deonte Thompson was everywhere once he entered the game. You could see that the Ravens were intentionally trying to get him the ball to see what he can do in game situations and he did not disappoint. Thompson hauled in several impressive catches including a touchdown in which he he coverage and used great body control to come down with the catch in bounds. He could have added another score had Quarterback Curtis painter not overthrown him in the back of the end zone. Thompson, by all accounts, looks like a keeper. It's uncanny how much he looks like Lee Evans out there wearing that number 83 jersey. Except Thompson is catching the ball.
Between Painter and Taylor they lead the Raves to a 31-17 victory over the Falcons. Both quarterbacks looked good and both were able to make good use of their play-makers. Not enough can be said about undrafted free agent running back Bobby Rainey. How in the H. E. double hockey sticks did this guy go undrafted. He was all over the place on special teams and on offense. Rainey showed off his speed, balance and elusiveness time after time as he made defenders look stupid trying to tackle him. He reminds me of a combination of Ray Rice and Ricky Williams when he runs. the Ravens must find a way to keep him on the 53 man roster. I'll even go as far as to say he needs to get some game time action during the regular season. The guy makes plays. It's that simple. I would hate to see him get picked up by the Jets or Patriots and burn us in the playoffs for years to come.
There were a few other stand out players as well. Jacoby Jones had only one catch that i can remember but was wide open several times, including one where he had burned the entire defense but was badly overthrown by Flacco. Jones is a horse. I truly think he could be huge for us this season. The former Texan adds another big physical presence to the receiving core and he has speed to spare. Undrafted free agent Omar Brown had a big game with three turn overs on defense. Unfortunately the best possible scenario for him may be practice squad this season. Quarterback Curtis Painter looked very good against the third stringers and may be putting some pressure on Tyrod Taylor for the number two quarterback role and Taylor himself showed to be dynamic in the running and passing game.
Well the first preseason is in the books and as usual there are more questions than answers now. The biggest things to take from this game are that the offensive line needs to find a rotation of guys and stick to it so Joe can execute his game plan. the defensive line must find more creative ways to get pressure without the presence of a truly premier pass rusher.
Last but most definitely not least, after one game, Deonte Thompson and bobby Rainey look to be the real deal and could be forcing their way onto the roster with their play. I even want to show some love for wide out Logan Payne. The guy has great hands and seems to have a knack for getting open. I know he is a long shot to make the team but maybe if he can show some worth on special teams he can find himself on the final 53. I think with some solid coaching and a year or two in the Ravens system he could turn out to be a very good possession receiver in the NFL.
The Ravens now know their issues on game day and must spend this next week working on them. I hope to see a much more polished product next week especially in the trenches where games are truly won and lost.