The Baltimore Ravens starting offense is still trying to find its footing.
Not surprisingly, the group isn't breaking out the emergency flares yet.
"You're calling them struggles. I'm calling them preseason work," running back Ray Rice said. "If you don't have things to work on in the preseason, then obviously you're the greatest team in mankind."
The Ravens' first-team offense has scored just seven points in its first two preseason games – and all of them came on one pass and mostly on the legs of one player, wide receiver Torrey Smith.
Baltimore's starting unit has had nine drives and six first downs in its first two games. It's compiled 163 total yards in three quarters of play.
The Ravens struggled with converting on third down (mostly because of drops) in their first preseason game in Tampa Bay. On Thursday night against Atlanta, a different set of problems cropped up. The offensive line didn't block well for the run. The unit committed penalties that put it in a hole.
"We were sloppy, and we didn't run a lot of plays because of that," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "You love the one-play touchdown drive, but at the same time it would have been nice to get into a little rhythm and complete some passes and stuff like that. We just never did that tonight."
It was foreboding when center A.Q. Shipley was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for hands to the face on the offense's very first play from scrimmage. Then it was telling when Rice's night ended with him yelling as he headed to the sideline after being smacked for a 4-yard loss.
"We definitely need to get better, but it's the preseason," Rice said. "All 32 teams are working on things. Nobody goes in with a magical game plan, you know, like we're going to run guys over."
After Shipley's penalty backed the Ravens up on their first drive, Rice rushed for two yards, then was stopped quickly on a 1-yard pass. Flacco then threw a bit behind tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, and the pass bounced off his hands and to the turf.
Flacco hit Smith in stride for a 77-yard touchdown on the first play of the next series. But the excitement was short-lived.
Rice ran three times for a collective three yards on the next drive. He was gang-tackled for a 5-yard loss on third down when the Falcons got tons of penetration up the middle. The Ravens went back to the ground on the next drive, and a third-down completion to Jacoby Jones left them one yard short of a first down.
Flacco picked up the unit's second first down of the game on the next drive late in the second quarter, but threw an interception on the next play when a pass intended for Jones bounced straight up in the air and was snatched by Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel.
Flacco finished 7-for-9 for 118 yards, one touchdown and one interception, good for a 116.2 quarterback rating. But the Ravens' first-team offense hardly moved.
"We're not going to overreact to something like this and get all crazy and things like that," Flacco said. "We've been through this. We feel like we've had a great camp and we're continuing to get better."
The offensive starters still have one more preseason game to get on track before flying out to Denver for the Sept. 5 regular-season opener.
It is expected to see its largest chunk of playing time next Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium against the Carolina Panthers. It's tradition for the starters to play the longest in the third preseason game. Flacco will likely sit for the entire fourth game against St. Louis.
"It's still a dress rehearsal. We're trying to get in our rhythm, that's all," Jones said. "This game is more of a regular-season game coming up. So we'll be able to get our feet wet for real."