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In a second run-through, the Ravens and their new no-huddle offense put forth a much better showing.
Just like last week in Atlanta, quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense came out of the gate using the no-huddle. But in Friday night's preseason game against the Detroit Lions, the offense was crisp and efficient in its first quarter of work at M&T Bank Stadium.
Flacco orchestrated scoring drives (two field goals) on two of his three possessions, and the Ravens went up 6-0 with the starters in the game. Detroit's first-team offense broke out once the Ravens started pulling their starters and they went on to win 27-12 thanks to a big second quarter from quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
But while the Ravens first teamers were in the game, the Ravens offense was clicking.
"I definitely like it," Flacco said about the no-huddle. "It's an up-tempo offense and it definitely keeps the defense on their heels. I also think we're good at it."
Flacco and the first-team offense played just over a quarter, and he finished the game 7-of-12 passing for 79 yards. He didn't throw any touchdowns or interceptions.
This offseason the Ravens have instituted the no-huddle approach and the transition is still a work in progress. Friday's game was a step in the right direction.
The offense had success through the air and on the ground, and the offensive line played a much improved game compared to last week. Michael Oher again started at left tackle, with rookie Kelechi Osemele at right tackle, Bobbie Williams at left guard, Matt Birk at center (preseason debut) and Marshal Yanda at right guard. Veteran Bryant McKinnie again worked with the second-team offense.
Flacco had time to throw and he spread the ball around by targeting six different players. The blemish for the first-team offense was that the group wasn't able to get in the end zone for the second straight week.
Miscues and penalties made life difficult for the Ravens offense. Free-agent acquisition Jacoby Jones let a long pass down the sidelines slip through his fingers on the first drive, and on the next drive Oher was flagged for holding, which put the Ravens in a second-and-long situation.
"We were able to push it up on them a little bit, but we definitely have to capitalize when we get in the red zone," Flacco said. "Other than that it was a pretty good night. We just need to clean up a few things and get in the end zone."
The silver lining of not scoring touchdowns was that it set up field-goal opportunities for Billy Cundiff and Justin Tucker, who are in the midst of a tight kicking battle. Both kickers put forth a good showing the first half, as Cundiff hit from 33 and 44, and Tucker was good from 50 yards. Tucker added a 45-yard field goal in the second half and also kicked a successful onside kick late in the game.
Cundiff hit his first attempt after coming onto the field to a smattering of boos. The field goal was Cundiff's first attempt of the preseason, and his first field goal in game action since missing in last year's AFC championship loss.
The Ravens defense also started strong and forced punts on Detroit's first two possessions, but once linebacker Ray Lewis and starting safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard came off the field they had no answer for Detroit's passing attack. The Lions scored a pair of second-quarter touchdowns to take a 17-19 lead into halftime.
"I think we looked good," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We went in there early and made a bunch of plays to get off the field."
The secondary, which had problems stopping Atlanta's passing attack, also had problems with Detroit's dynamic receiver Calvin Johnson. The 6-foot-6 Johnson burned cornerback Cary Williams for a 57-yard reception down the sidelines. A few plays later, he made an acrobatic catch over cornerback Jimmy Smith on an 18-yard touchdown.
Johnson finished the night with five catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Matthew Stafford finished his night with 12-of-17 passing for 184 yards and two touchdowns. However, the bulk of his damage came with first-team Reed and Pollard on the sidelines.
"When you're playing a great receiver like Calvin Johnson, you could throw the ball anywhere and Johnson will go up and get it," Pollard said. "He is a talent on the field and he has a special gift."
The Ravens reserves didn't fare too well once they came into the game. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor finished the day 8-of-22 passing for 65 yards. He did most of the work with his legs and was the game's leading rusher with 60 yards on seven carries.
The Lions reserves added two fourth quarter scores with a 31-yard field goal by Derek Dimke and then a 76-yard touchdown run with 43 seconds left by Stephfon Green.