The Baltimore Ravens unveiled their brand new, high performance Offense tonight, trouncing the San Francisco Forty-niners by a score of 23-3. The opening drive went 80 yards in ten plays, ending with an impressive two yards run by Bernard Pierce.
Pierce had several good runs in the game but unfortunately put the ball on the ground. He did, however, hustle to recover his own fumble.
Ray Rice looked very quick and his acceleration was fantastic. He seems to have adjusted well to the one cut, downhill running style favored by Gary Kubiak’s “zone blocking” scheme.
Justin Forsett looked very good, especially when he bounced outside and picked up good yardage. The most impressive rusher, however, was the Ravens 2014 fourth round draft pick Lorenzo Taliaferro, a 6’0”, 226 lbs power back out of Coastal Carolina University. Taliaferro showed patience, quickness, speed and power as he ran for 71 yards on 13 carries.
Joe Flacco, who went 4-5 for 52 yards, showed great poise in the pocket, delivering the ball “on time” with good placement and velocity. On passes that required “touch”, Flacco hit the mark every time. His foot work was noticeably improved from previous years and his mechanics appeared more fluid and natural, but one of the most notable improvements was his command of the offense. Flacco’s “reads” were “on the money” and his decisions were sound. He did a great job in the limited amount of time he was on the field.
The first team Offensive Line performed well. Jeremy Zuttah was solid in the middle and Rick Wagner answered a lot of questions at Right Tackle. The second team O-Line still needs work. Break downs at Left Tackle and Right Guard led to a couple of sacks and Quarterback Tyrod Taylor having to run for his life. Taylor did, however, march the team down field in the fourth quarter, capping the drive with a seven yards touchdown pass to Jeremy Butler.
Both Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels were solid. Backup Tight End Phillip Supernaw had an adventurous night, including getting his helmet in the way of Tyrod Taylors hand on the TD pass to Butler. Although painful, Tyrod’s hand was declared “okay” by Ravens medical staff.
Ravens Wide Receivers were more aggressive in their route running and more determined in contesting for catches than I have seen them in years. The attitude was pervasive and there was no drop off after the first team “called it a night.” Kamar Aiken, who spent the last part of 2013 on the Ravens’ practice squad, was especially sharp and Jeremy Butler was solid in the “Red Zone.”
The Ravens Defense, which was ranked twelfth in 2013, looked markedly better. After a little bit of a shaky start by rookie Linebacker C.J. Mosley, the Defense looked more like the renowned Ravens defenses of old. The front seven stuffed the run, got penetration, harassed and sacked the Quarterbacks, sealed the edges and tackled well. The defensive backfield was aggressive, opportunistic and covered the Forty-niners receivers like the proverbial “blanket.” Even the second and third team corners were playing pretty tight coverage and hitting with authority.
Head Coach John Harbaugh has to be please with the effort of his team and the results of their first pre-season game. Although it is early, the team appears to be determined to put the disappointment of 2013 behind them. This team has a new attitude and it came through “loud and clear” on Thursday night against the Forty-niners.