The Ravens final preseason game proved to be an entertaining one, even though the starters did nothing more than warm up prior to the action. When the dust settled, we saw the Ravens beat Saints 22-13, improving their preseason record to a perfect 4-0 in the building they hadn’t visited since they won the Super Bowl in 2012.
Key to the victory was another superior rushing performance, this time courtesy of backups Lorenzo Taliaferro and Fitzgerald Toussaint. Taliaferro rushed 25 times for 105 yards (3.8 average), while Toussaint had a huge night, toting the rock 17 times for 103 yards (6.0 average). Quarterback Tyrod Taylor added another 24 yards on the ground in what was a dominant performance for the rushing attack.
Taylor put in an uneven performance in what could be his last start for the Ravens and an audition for next year’s free agency market. He finished 10 of 17 passing for 105 yards (6.2 average), 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Taylor made a few good throws, but he also made a couple of bad ones, overthrowing Kamar Aiken in the end zone with what could have been an easy touchdown in a first half drive.
Five drives ended in field goals, and the Ravens finished 1 of 5 in their red zone attempts. This was a stark contrast to the first three preseason games, when the team averaged well over 60% in enemy territory. It’s a testament to how big of a talent drop off there is between Joe Flacco and the backup quarterbacks.
The Raven’s backup defense didn’t help the situation by turning into a penalty machine. The team as a whole committed a total of 12 penalties for 91 yards, compared to 1 by the Saints for a meager 5 yards. The Ravens, however, dominated time of possession thanks to the efficiency of the run game, holding on to the ball for 42:39 vs. the Saints at 17:21.
Keith Wenning turned in a solid night after looking shaky in the first two games of the preseason, going 8 of 13 for 117 yards (9.0 average) and a 90.9 QB rating. He actually outplayed Taylor, who posted a mediocre 71.9 rating. Wenning looked quite a bit more confident against the Saints than he did against the Cowboys two weeks ago.
The wide receiver competition came to a close against the Saints as well. Michael Campanaro, Kamar Aiken, and Deonte Thompson got the start against the Saints, and all three played fairly well. Aiken was targeted heavily on the first few drives, ending with 4 receptions for 57 yards (14.3 average) on 8 targets. He could have had a much bigger night but was hurt by Taylor’s aforementioned accuracy issues.
Michael Campanaro caught all 3 of his 3 receptions for 55 yards (18.3 average) and looked quick and explosive when on the field. He also added 78 yards on 3 kick returns (26.0 average) and 20 yards on 2 punt returns (10.0 average). Thompson caught 3 of 5 targets for 25 yards (8.3 average) and the team’s lone touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Arthur Brown led the Ravens with 4 solo tackles, but the real star of the show was John Simon. Simon was a force to be reckoned with as he racked up 3 solo tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, and 4 quarterback hits. He showed relentless motor and practically set up a tent in the Saint’s backfield.
The Ravens added another 3 QB hits to Simon’s total, but no additional sacks or TFL’s. It was a rather lackluster performance by the rest of the unit, though they were excellent on 3rd and 4th downs. The Saints were 0-7 on 3rd down and 0-1 on 4th down. The Ravens D held the Saints to a whopping 42 yards rushing, which greatly contributed to that drive killing performance.
All in all, it was a pretty good performance for these end of the roster types. The Ravens have to be pleased with the way their run game performed, and Tyrod Taylor at least kept the ball moving. Even though they had a poor showing in the red zone, they still got Justin Tucker in a position where he could put points on the board for the win.
It was also encouraging to see John Simon break out. The team was already high on the 2013 fourth rounder, and he has been improving with each practice and game this offseason. Simon appears ready to join the pass rush rotation and make an impact in his sophomore season.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens