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Ravens fans were hoping to see the debut of a new, high-powered aerial attack in Baltimore's preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, and Coordinator Cam Cameron did not disappoint.
On the Ravens' first series, Cameron called four consecutive passes. Their third ended in a 30-yard touchdown bomb to wideout Mark Clayton.
Even though it was a short night for the Ravens' starters, Baltimore's 17-12 victory was also a perfect glimpse into what might come.
"We need to clean some things up, but overall it was a good start," said quarterback Joe Flacco. "I was happy we were able to cap it off with a touchdown on that last drive."
In all, Flacco completed eight of 12 passes for 120 yards. On the 10-play, 96-yard touchdown march, Flacco was 6-of-6 for 79 yards and tossed a perfect jump-ball to Clayton that the embattled receiver fought for in the end zone.
The Ravens came out of the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium firing.
After a raucous introduction of the defense – which included pyrotechnics and Ray Lewis' signature dance – Flacco went straight to the air, finding Derrick Mason for a 23-yard connection. On the play, two Panthers defenders were drawn away from Mason by Anquan Boldin, the Ravens' high-profile offseason acquisition.
Flacco got the Ravens to Carolina's 12-yard line on an 18-yard pass to Clayton, but the drive was stalled when 349-pound defensive tackle Terrence Cody – playing fullback – was flagged for a false start.
The first team played into the second quarter until Clayton reached paydirt, running a screen-pass clinic to Willis McGahee for four plays to chew up the yardage.
Then, on second-and-6, Flacco calmly dropped back and unleashed a rainbow to Clayton, who wrestled the ball from second-year cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
But, the loudest cheers from the 70,579 in attendance erupted when Flacco hit Boldin for a 12-yard gain on third down, moving the chains to set up Clayton's score.
"We didn't really try to run in the first half," Cameron said. "We emphasized throwing downfield, and we had some success, including the touchdown from Joe to Mark."
The Ravens decided to rest Ray Rice, who finished second in the NFL in total yards last year, going with Le'Ron McClain for the starting work.
Defensively, the Ravens held up despite being short at cornerback.
Domonique Foxworth was lost for the season before training camp with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. But Fabian Washington (knee) was held out as a precaution, Lardarius Webb (knee) still hasn't been able to get back on the field and K.J. Gerard was listed as inactive (undisclosed).
The Ravens also scratched Chris Carr (undisclosed), but he did see a few snaps to open the game before leaving.
That left Travis Fisher, Cary Williams and Prince Miller to cover the Panther's receivers – and the Ravens to dial up their pass rush.
Baltimore held starter Matt Moore to a 4-of-7, 32-yard performance. Backup Jimmy Clausen was only 8-of-15 for 80 yards and one interception at the hands of Williams. Including reserve Hunter Cantwell, the Panthers were sacked seven times and linebacker Antwan Barnes was consistently in the backfield.
If anything, the Ravens were concerned with their run defense, which was gashed for 142 total rushing yards, with 33 of them coming from Pro Bowler DeAngelo Williams.
"I think we had some guys too focused on getting to the quarterback and some out of position," said Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison.
At the end of the rain-soaked night, the Ravens felt like they came away with a good gauge of several hot-button issues.
"The bottom line is always next man up for us," Lewis told ESPN, who televised the game nationally. "On our defense, we're three parts – defensive line, linebackers and secondary. If our secondary's hurt, then our front seven's got to get it done. We don't have to worry about that."
And when the offense had a chance to shine, the Ravens were happy with the way things looked.
"That's something we've really been working on, trying to get down the field," said McGahee on behalf of the offense. "I think we are where we want to be for this point in time, but we still have a lot of work to do."