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Ravens-Falcons Preseason Highlights
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Two of the NFL's more respected pass rushers, Kroy Biermann and Ray Edwards, took advantage of Harewood and Reid's inexperience on the edges.
It showed on the Ravens' first drive, where Biermann pressured Taylor into throwing an interception over the middle. Biermann was also the one who slammed Taylor to the turf, sending the quarterback to the sideline.
Heading into Atlanta, there was some question as to whether Head Coach John Harbaugh would want to get some game reps for the Ravens' brand-new starting offensive line. Center Matt Birk and left tackle Bryant McKinnie hadn't played all preseason, and right guard Marshal Yanda just returned after suffering from back spasms.
In the end, Harbaugh chose not to risk injury heading into the season opener.
"Late last night, I finally decided to go this way," Harbaugh said. "I thought there was merit in playing those guys. In the end, we're going to have a heavy practice [Friday] with those guys. We had two really good practices with them this week. I felt like the risk outweighed the benefit for this game."
The Ravens held Atlanta in check with a solid pass rush of their own.
Paul Kruger and rookie Pernell McPhee, who both started, were terrors in the Falcons' backfield.
Kruger logged a sack-strip of Redman on the game's fifth snap.
And McPhee caused yet another fumble in the second quarter that was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass – the third time he was affected by a play reversal this preseason.
"The more of those we can get, we'll take them," Harbaugh said with a smile. "They've got to turn into fumbles at some point, right?"
The fact that a defense made up of second-teamers – except cornerback Domonique Foxworth, defensive tackle Terrence Cody and linebacker Jameel McClain – didn't allow any big yardage was a positive sign.
"Their goal was to take the ball down the field a couple times and score, get some work with their first offensive line and second quarterback," said Harbaugh. "I thought our defense did a nice job of putting a crimp in those plans.
"They stepped up, mostly our second defense and a couple of young starters."
It wasn't until the Ravens intercepted third-stringer John Parker Wilson deep in Atlanta territory that they were able to light the scoreboard.
First-round draft pick Jimmy Smith wrestled the ball out of wideout Andy Strickland's hands, and linebacker Jason Phillips made the heads-up pick at the Falcons' 24-yard line.
That led to Billy Cundiff's 33-yard field goal just over a minute before halftime, closing out a crash course in kicking. Each team booted four punts apiece, and the strong-legged Cundiff missed a 57-yard field goal.
The Falcons also turned the ball over on downs.
The stagnant play would pick up in the second half, save for a few explosive plays.
Atlanta took a 7-3 lead when second-year running back Antone Smith burst up the right sideline for a 46-yard touchdown run. The Falcons were helped on the drive by a 15-yard horse-collar penalty on Jimmy Smith and a 16-yard dash by Antone Smith.
Still, the Ravens ratcheted up the pressure as the deepest parts of both rosters took the field.
Late in the third quarter, Cantwell was harassed into throwing a deep bomb to receiver James Hardy in the end zone that was easily picked off by Atlanta cornerback Kamaal McIlwain and returned 44 yards.
Four snaps later, rookie Chykie Brown stepped in front of Brandyn Harvey for an interception of his own and sprinted 65 yards untouched into the end zone, giving the Ravens a 10-7 advantage.
"I ran his route," said Brown. "I could have stopped, but I worked too hard, so I said, 'I'm gonna jump it,' because I thought the quarterback was going to try to throw it out of bounds. When he threw it, the ball was just floating in the air so I ran under it and was gone."
The Ravens would add another 44-yard field goal from Cundiff and a sack-strip from undrafted rookie Michael McAdoo that was recovered by Phillips at the Atlanta 5-yard line. That led to a Damien Berry touchdown run with two minutes, thirty-two seconds left on the clock, which made the defeat even worse.
Now, the Ravens have to trim their roster from 80 to 53 names by Saturday. They will also form an eight-man practice squad this weekend.
By utilizing the entire contest to fully evaluate what they have in the locker room, the Ravens are yet one step closer to the team they'll bring into an opening day battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"There were some question marks, and that's what you want to see," said Harbaugh. "That's what this game's for. It's an opportunity to see those guys under live fire. It really is the most important thing. You add it to camp, but some decisions will probably be made because of this game."