ATLANTA Although the scoreboard indicated that the Ravens blew out the Atlanta Falcons in Thursdays preseason opener at the Georgia Dome, dont be fooled.
When the starters for both teams were on the field at the outset of the game, the Falcons were far superior on both sides of the ball. The Falcons led, 14-0, early in the second quarter.
After trailing by 10 points at halftime, the Ravens rallied to win big, but they did it as reserves flooded the field. The Ravens will take the result but head coach John Harbaugh wont forget seeing his team get dominated early.
The Falcons starting offense shredded the Ravens first-team defense, with quarterback Matt Ryan leading a pair of long (80 and 85 yards) touchdown drives in the first 16 minutes. Ryan was never under pressure, and Atlanta wideouts Julio Jones and Roddy White were repeatedly open.
Ravens cornerbacks Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb had nights to forget -- especially Williams, who in his defense, was playing for the first time since undergoing hip surgery in the offseason.
Meanwhile, the Ravens first-team offense couldnt get anything going, opening with three straight three-and-outs against Atlantas first-team defense before redeeming itself with a touchdown drive early in the second quarter.
Although he started slowly, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco wound up with a nice stat line: 9 of 12 for 88 yards and a touchdown. His quarterback rating of 122.9 actually was much higher than Ryans 103.0 because Ryan threw an interception.
Several reserve receivers battling for jobs looked good. Deonte Thompson grabbed three balls, including a 22-yard touchdown, and repeatedly got behind the Atlanta secondary. Tommy Streeter made a pair of receptions.
The first commandment of the preseason is no injuries, but the Ravens came away with a few. Tight end Ed Dickson suffered a shoulder sprain, potentially a major problem with Dennis Pitta already out with a broken hand. Defensive lineman Ryan McBean left the field on the back of a cart with an undetermined knee injury, and rookie cornerback Asa Jackson pulled a hamstring.
After starting Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele at the tackle spots, the Ravens inserted Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and gave him a long look in the second and third quarters. The veteran appeared to move well and handle his assignments easily, with no breakdowns.
Rookie kicker Justin Tucker was given the Ravens first field-goal attempt ahead of Billy Cundiff and drilled a 36-yarder in the third quarter. Tucker also converted all of the teams extra-point attempts. But dont read anything into Tucker going ahead of incumbent Billy Cundiff. The Ravens pretty much know what Cundiff can do and need to find out about Tucker. He performed very well.
The Ravens focused on improving their kick and punt coverage teams during the offseason, but it didnt look like when Atlantas Dominique Franks broke a 45-yard punt return in the first quarter.
Albert McClellan was one of the better players on the field for the Ravens defense with five tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits. The Ravens announced on their Twitter feed before the game that Sergio Kindle would replace rookie Courtney Upshaw in the starting lineup, but McClellan did and made the most of the opportunity. His star continues to rise.
Among the backs battling to back up Ray Rice, undrafted rookie Bobby Rainey stood out by far. Raney rushed for 27 yards on eight carries and caught three passes for 28 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Allen, the teams 2011 seventh-round draft pick, averaged just 1.8 yards on five carries.