The Ravens had two rookies on the offensive line Sunday and both acquitted themselves well in their first career starts.
Left guard Bradley Bozeman played through a calf injury and returned to the game twice after receiving medical attention on the field. Right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. was solid as both a run blocker and pass blocker, as quarterback Joe Flacco completed 23 of 39 passes for 279 yards and was sacked just once.
Despite the 24-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Harbaugh praised both rookies after reviewing the game tape.
“Those guys played very well,” Harbaugh said. “For a couple of freshman, I though they acquitted themselves very well, and Boze even played through a little calf deal and gutted it out. He showed a lot of courage there, too. I thought Orlando played solid football.
“Both of them can be better. Both of them will learn from it. I think they’ll get a lot better because of the game experience they had, speed of the game and all that. Our offensive line was not a negative at all in the game, they played well.”
Bozeman filled in for Alex Lewis, who suffered a neck injury Week 6 in Tennessee. Brown replaced right tackle James Hurst, who had a back issue that flared up later in the week.
Brown looked ready to handle the starting job if called upon. Despite playing every offensive snap at right tackle, and the third-round pick from Oklahoma did not seem to fade as the game progressed. Brown often went against Saints three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan, who finished with just two tackles.
“At the end of the day, I feel good,” Brown said following Sunday’s game. “That’s just the reality of it and just how I was raised. No man, no moves scare me. I’m just going to continue to worry about myself and grind. Obviously, we didn’t do enough to win. We’re worried about us and getting better but also winning.”
The Ravens dressed just six offensive lineman Sunday, and backup lineman Hroniss Grasu replaced Bozeman both times he left the game. Harbaugh said the Ravens didn’t have enough time to sign an extra lineman, and that it wasn’t necessary.
“We didn’t have time to,” Harbaugh said. “What would have been the benefit of that? Who would we have cut to do that? How would it have helped us in the game? We didn’t need the extra guy in the game. Sometimes you take a little bit of a risk.”
Bozeman, a fifth-round pick from Alabama, said he wasn’t nervous before the game. He was a center in college but has practiced at guard since rookie minicamp.
“I was excited to get out there, excited to show what I can do,” Bozeman said. We’ve been preparing since May pretty much, so just to get out there and be able to show what you can do is a great experience.”
No Injury Update on Lewis, Hurst, or Marlon Humphrey
The Ravens’ starting offensive line remains uncertain for their next game against the Carolina Panthers, and it will likely stay that way all week.
Harbaugh did not give an injury update Monday on either Smith or Hurst, and it remained to be seen if Brown will remain the starting right tackle. The Ravens could move Hurst to left guard, especially if Smith’s neck injury keeps him sidelined. Hurst started the entire 2017 season at left guard.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (thigh) was inactive Sunday and the Ravens missed his presence. He has been their best cornerback this season, and Jimmy Smith had a tough day in coverage. Harbaugh praised Smith for how he answered questions Sunday about his performance.
“That’s one thing I love about our team: the character of our team,” Harbaugh said. “The kind of guys we have, it gives me a lot of optimism and excitement for the future, because I just think we have guys that take responsibility. Every one of us, including myself, and every coach and every player, the first thing that we do look at themselves and say, ‘What can I do better?’
“So yes, Jimmy could have done plenty of things better; that’s the guy you asked me about, and if you could put any other name in there, they would have said the same thing, and they could have played better. But I thought our players played well, I thought our coaches coached well, just not well enough to win this game at this time on that day. So, we’ll fight to win the next one.”
Harbaugh Stands by his Two First Quarter Challenges
The Ravens challenged two calls on the Saints’ first offensive drive Sunday, winning the first and losing the second.
They challenged the official’s spot after a third-down completion to Saints tight end Benjamin Watson was originally ruled a first down. That call was reversed, but the Saints went for it on fourth down and made it. Later in that same opening drive, it appeared Saints running back Alvin Kamara may have fumbled and lost possession before his knee hit the ground, but that call stood after the Ravens challenged.
Losing that challenge left the Ravens without a challenge the remainder of the game. If a team wins both of its two challenges, it gets a third. But if they lose one, they are out of challenges.
”We’ve talked about that rule, the rule should be changed,” Harbaugh said. You shouldn’t have to win both challenges to get another challenge back. That’s been talked about and dismissed by the powers that be. Who knows why?
“We never challenge unless we think we’re going to win. Both points of the ball were moving. That’s loss of control. We still feel strongly that we were right in challenging that.”
Burning both challenges early left the Ravens unable to challenge when Saints quarterback Drew Brees was giving a first down after he extended the ball on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter. The Saints took the lead for good three plays later with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas.
Harbaugh said he would have challenged that call too if he could, because he believed Brees was stopped short of the first down.
“Absolutely,” Harbaugh said. “You have to at least get close to the line of scrimmage. It’s not like you put the ball across the plane of a goal line. You can’t put the ball across the plane of the first-down marker – it’s got to be forward progress. Absolutely would’ve challenged that. The other thing: You’d like for them to get it right the first time – that would be the ideal thing.”