Ravens Update Postgame

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Audition interrupted: Taylor injured in Ravens' win

ATLANTA -- Tyrod Taylor left the Georgia Dome late Thursday night with his left arm in a sling after his audition to cement his status as the Baltimore Ravens' backup quarterback was cut short by a punishing tackle. Taylor's status was the highest-profile issue surrounding what amounted to a glorified scrimmage Thursday night as the Ravens (3-1) concluded the preseason with a 21-7 victory over the winless Atlanta Falcons.

"I think it's just something minor, said Taylor, who indicated that he didn't have the shoulder X-rayed yet with tests revealing no separation. "It's a short setback, a couple of days off. I think I'll be ready for the regular season." The rookie's injury was characterized as a contusion. The former Virginia Tech standout was replaced by third quarterback Hunter Cantwell. "The only issue we encountered this game was Tyrod Taylor and his small injury that might just be a bruised shoulder," coach John Harbaugh said. "We'll see how serious it is, but it doesn't appear right now to be real serious. If we find out he can't play, then we will definitely have an issue."

Taylor had a rough night in general as he completed just 2 of 3 passes for 16 yards with one interception.

Staring over the middle as he tried to connect with wide receiver David Reed, Taylor telegraphed his errant throw and it was intercepted by cornerback Brent Grimes. Then, he got crushed by Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann as left offensive tackle Ramon Harewood missed his block.

Now, the Ravens will internally debate whether they should anoint Taylor as the primary backup to quarterback Joe Flacco or if they need to sign a veteran insurance policy such as Jake Delhomme, Todd Bouman, Chris Simms or J.P. Losman or wait to see if Sage Rosenfels is released. Taylor finished the preseason with one touchdown pass and three interceptions. Harbaugh said the Ravens will keep their options open.

"It's like I've been saying all along, it's going to depend on who's out there," Harbaugh said. "That's what affects the decision more than anything."

The Ravens opted to rest quarterback Joe Flacco and the starting offensive line after contemplating all week whether to have them make a brief appearance to build timing. "It came down to the wire," Harbaugh said. "Late last night, I finally decided to go this way. I thought there was merit in playing those guys. I felt like the risk outweighed the benefit for this game."

The Ravens regained the lead for good when rookie cornerback Chykie Brown returned a John Parker Wilson interception 65 yards for the touchdown. Brown was so far in front that he had time to raise the football in the air in celebration before he entered the end zone. "Chykie did really well," Harbaugh said. "He was up and down at camp and understanding the defense from a discipline standpoint. Chykie got out there and made a lot of the right decisions." Brown's interception was triggered by linebacker Chavis Williams' hit on Wilson to affect the throw and cause it to flutter.

"I ran his route," Brown said. "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 I was gone."

A fifth-round draft pick from the University of Texas vying to make the team as the 10th defensive back, Brown is hoping his first big play of the preseason boosts his standing. "I think it can open a lot of coaches' eyes, not just this team, but other teams," Brown said. "If I don't make this team, then I can go someplace else. This is where I want to be." Opportunistic on defense, the Ravens intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles. "It was a good night for the guys," Harbaugh said. "Especially the defense, which did an outstanding job." The offense struggled mightily as Cantwell struggled with his accuracy and decision-making. Cantwell completed just 13 of 28 passes for 111 yards, no touchdowns and an interception for a 42.4 passer rating.

He's not expected to make the team, but could be brought back to join the practice squad for the second year in a row.

Sam Koch was called on to punt eight times. The Ravens' top performances were on defense where defensive end Pernell McPhee and outside linebacker Paul Kruger applied a lot of heat to the Falcons' quarterbacks.

Kruger decked former Ravens quarterback Chris Redman for a sack and forced fumble in the first quarter after the offensive line overplayed blitzing safety Bernard Pollard. And Pollard pounced on the loose football. Pollard may be on the verge of earning the starting strong safety job ahead of Tom Zbikowski as he finished the game with three tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery. One quarter later, McPhee sacked Redman for a nine-yard loss and forced a fumble recovered by cornerback Jimmy Smith.

For the third time this preseason, though, McPhee had a forced fumble and sack overturned by instant replay as the officials ruled that Redman's arm was moving forward. "The more of those we can get, we'll take them," Harbaugh said. "They've got to turn into fumbles at some point, right?"

The Ravens finally got on the scoreboard with 1:01 remaining in the first half when kicker Billy Cundiff knocked in a 32-yard field goal. In a debatable call, receiver David Reed was flagged for offensive pass interference when he caught the ball in the end zone prior to the field goal.

The score was set up inside linebacker Jason Phillips' deflected interception. Phillips is battling for one of the final roster spots. "Jason Phillips is outstanding and really stepped up," Harbaugh said. "He was all over the field making tackles."

It was Smith, the rookie first-round draft pick, whose physical play led to the turnover. Smith bashed into wide receiver Andy Strickland, knocking the ball toward Phillips, a former fifth-round draft pick from Texas Christian who's battling for one of the final roster spots. "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," Harbaugh said. "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." By halftime, the Ravens managed to generate only 72 yards of total offense with just three first downs. The Ravens' defense broke down in the third quarter.

First, Smith was flagged for an illegal horse collar tackle with a 15-yard penalty assessed. Two plays later, running back Antone Smith dashed 46 yards for a touchdown as he beat linebacker Josh Bynes and safety Nate Williams as the Falcons took a 7-3 lead.

However, it was short-lived, Wilson's pass arrived well short of intended wide receiver Brandyn Harvey and Brown swooped in for the interception.

In the fourth quarter, the Ravens tacked on a 44-yard field goal from Cundiff and a five-yard touchdown run by undrafted rookie Damien Berry. The Ravens added another two points after the Berry score when Cantwell rolled out to his right and found fullback Ryan Mahaffey for the conversion.

Auditioning for the sixth wide receiver job, undrafted rookie wide receiver LaQuan Williams had a 33-yard punt return. Undrafted rookie outside linebacker Michael McAdoo had a sack and forced fumble to lead to Berry's touchdown.

McAdoo went undrafted in the NFL supplemental draft and was signed to a three-year contract by Baltimore. He hadn't played in a football game in two years due to eligibility problems. The Ravens have until Saturday to get down to the NFL roster limit of 53 players.

Over the next two days, they'll be making a lot of decisions. Over two dozen players will be cut. "That's what this game is for," Harbaugh said. "It's an opportunity to see those guys in the line of fire. There will be some decisions made off this game."

Ravens notebook: Harbaugh decides to rest starters

ATLANTA -- Ultimately, the Baltimore Ravens opted for caution over risk. They rested the majority of their starters after initially contemplating having quarterback Joe Flacco and the first-string offensive line make a brief appearance during the Ravens' preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons.

"It went down to the wire," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Late last night, I finally decided to go this way. I thought there was merit in playing those guys. I felt like the risk outweighed the benefit for this game."

Instead of playing newly-minted left tackle Bryant McKinnie, center Matt Birk as he returns from knee surgery, Michael Oher at his new right tackle spot and Marshal Yanda after a bout with back spasms, the Ravens went with their backup plan Thursday night at the Georgia Dome. They started Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, Ramon Harewood at left tackle, Justin Boren at left guard, Bryan Mattison at center, Tim Barnes at right guard and Jah Reid at right tackle. "We have a veteran group of guys who take the right approach and work hard every day," Yanda said. "We are not worried about it. We'll work hard every day to get prepared." Birk and McKinnie didn't play at all this preseason.

"It's not ideal, but it's about the long term and the season opener," Birk said. "This was the smart thing to do. We're a pretty veteran group. We know how to handle little blips on the screen. We'll work our butts off the next 10 days to get ready."

Birk has been practicing for nearly an entire week after undergoing surgery at the start of training camp.

"It's coming," he said. "It just needs a little bit more time." The offensive line has been in flux throughout the preseason.

Now, the Ravens are going to have to get ready to play the Pittsburgh Steelers to open the season without the benefit of having their projected first-string line play any snaps together in four preseason games.

Will they be ready for Steelers outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley? "We don't have a choice," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "This is pro football, and I think we all know what that means. No one really cares. By the time that game comes around, the expectation for the player, for us as coaches, for the fans is that we're ready to play. "We've got a group that is committed to getting ready, and there are no excuses in our hip pocket. We're going to be ready to play." McKinnie is a former Pro Bowl selection cut by the Minnesota Vikings when he reported to training camp at 387 pounds.

Now, McKinnie says he's down to 370 pounds. There's a $300,000 weight clause for motivation in his contract to be paid out in $75,000 increments provided that he makes undisclosed target weights.

"It's exciting just to have a big, physical left tackle that can complement Michael Oher," Cameron said. "I think he's a proven player. He's got to continue to work on his conditioning.

"I think he's going to do everything he can to make this organization proud for bringing him here. I like his attitude, I like his approach. And I don't know how you get a player like this late in training camp, but we seem to find a way to get it done."

LINEUP SHUFFLE: With Ray Rice and Ricky Williams given the night off, the Ravens started Jalen Parmele at running back. Tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta were listed as starters.

The Ravens started Torrey Smith and David Reed at wide receiver with Lee Evans (left foot) and Anquan Boldin not playing.

Defensively, the Ravens rested middle linebacker Ray Lewis and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson, safety Ed Reed and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

They started Pernell McPhee, Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones along the defensive line.

And they started Paul Kruger and Prescott Burgess at outside linebacker with Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain playing inside linebacker. Bernard Pollard started at strong safety with Tom Zbikowski playing free safety in place of Reed. The Ravens' starting cornerbacks were Domonique Foxworth and Cary Williams.

HARD LUCK: For the third time this preseason, rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee had a sack and forced fumble nullified by an instant replay ruling.

McPhee sacked Falcons backup quarterback Chris Redman for a nine-yard loss, jarring the football loose with cornerback Jimmy Smith recovering. However, it was ruled an incomplete pass because officials said Redman's arm was going forward. "Man, I just have bad timing," said McPhee, a fifth-round draft pick from Mississippi State who has impressed the coaching staff. "I guess I got to get there sooner and beat the guy in front of me to get an official sack.

"I'm not getting there quick enough. I've got to stay focused and keep going hard. I don't play for stats. I do my best to beat the man in front of me."

SMITH IMPROVES: After struggling throughout the preseason, this was a fairly positive game for rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith.

The second-round draft pick caught two passes for 12 yards after dropping two passes last week against the Washington Redskins.

"Everything slower, I notice every game that things are starting to slow down," Smith said. "I'm learning. The easy part is getting back to playing football. It was a good night. I don't remember any major mistakes. I caught the ball with no problems

MOVING UP, MOVING DOWN: Inside linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden appeared to go in opposite directions this preseason as far as where they stand on the depth chart

Ellerbe started twice in relief of middle linebacker Ray Lewis. And Gooden continued to be plagued by durability issues, including neck and hamstring problems. What's his outlook heading into the final major roster cutdown?

"I don't know, man," said Gooden, a former third-round draft pick from the University of Miami. "It's up to the coaches. They grade everything; they have their own opinions on things." Under scrutiny in the past for weight and tardiness problems, Ellerbe had a strong preseason.

"I don't want to get my hopes up high," he said. "Anything can happen. I don't feel like I did anything to hurt myself."

LOT OF CHANGES: With the release of tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason for salary-cap reasons and fullback Le'Ron McClain and running back Willis McGahee also not returning, the Ravens have lost some high-profile offensive players.

The offense has undergone a lot of change, installing Dickson and Pitta as the top tight ends and acquiring Evans to play wide receiver opposite Boldin and signing fullback Vonta Leach and backup running back Ricky Williams.

"We do have some new faces, but we've got a lot of guys that have been around us, too," Cameron said. "So, it's a little bit of the way the league is. We've got a lot of guys that we've got confidence in. I think the additions we're making are great additions for a lot of reasons.

"I'm just excited. Change is part of the deal. You might as well deal with it and try to get better. I do think all these things are done to help us win and help make us better. That's the bottom line, and I think we're doing that."

COUNTING ON KOCH: The Ravens have a strong benchmark at punter with Sam Koch. The Pro Bowl alternate averaged 43.6 yards last season with 39 downed inside opponents' 20-yard line and four touchbacks.

"Sam had a fine year," special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "I think Sam is now probably noticed by more people. Everybody in our building pretty much knew Sam's talents for a lot longer. His pooch punts are a weapon for us. Now, he's developed hang-time punts for us that are giving our coverage a little time to cover.

"The things he's working to improve are consistency and ball flight. Every day when he's out here, he wants to have a practice where he doesn't miss a ball and he turns every ball over."

DECISION TIME

The Ravens expect their roster cuts to be difficult as they have to get down to 53 players by Saturday's NFL deadline. "I hope they're tough," Cameron said. "I hope they're tough at tight end, I hope they're tough in the offensive line. I think we've got some tough decisions to make at the wide receiver position. Our running backs, we've got a nice group

"I hope all those decisions are tough. Obviously, a lot of guys are practice-squad eligible. You want to be able to hang onto some quality practice-squad guys to see if you can develop them."

QUICK HITS: The Ravens' game captains were Taylor, safety Haruki Nakamura and McClain.

The Ravens managed to gain only 33 yards with two first downs in the first quarter. ... Rookie running back Damien Berry led the Ravens with 31 rushing yards on eight carries followed by Jalen Parmele gaining 21 yards on 10 carries. Rookie seventh-round pick Anthony Allen, who played at Georgia Tech, rushed for 11 yards on his one carry. Berry also caught two passes for 18 yards.

A former Ravens backup quarterback, Redman completed 4 of 8 passes for 58 yards and no touchdowns in the first half for the Falcons.

Boldin on knee being wrapped: 'It was nothing'

ATLANTA -- Wide receiver Anquan Boldin laughed loudly when asked why he had ice wrapped around his knee during the Baltimore Ravens' 21-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Boldin didn't play in the game along with most of the other starters, but emphasized after the game that there's no injury. That didn't stop fans from being concerned about the former Pro Bowl selection.

"They can stop worrying," said Boldin, who took part in warmups before kickoff. "That's just maintenance. Standing around, your legs get stiff. I always ice when I'm just standing on the sidelines. It was nothing."

Referees take another forced fumble away from McPhee

ATLANTA -- For the third time this preseason, Baltimore Ravens rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee had a sack and forced fumble nullified by an instant replay ruling

During the Ravens' 21-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, McPhee sacked Atlanta Falcons backup quarterback Chris Redman for a nine-yard loss. He jarred the football loose with cornerback Jimmy Smith recovering. However, it was ruled an incomplete pass because officials said Redman's arm was going forward. "Man, I just have bad timing," said McPhee, a fifth-round draft pick from Mississippi State who has impressed the coaching staff. "I guess I got to get there sooner and beat the guy in front of me to get an official sack.

"I'm not getting there quick enough. I've got to stay focused and keep going hard. I don't play for stats. I do my best to beat the man in front of me."

Birk not worried about rust -- Baltimore Ravens six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk didn't play in any preseason games after undergoing surgery on his left knee at the start of training camp.

Will be he ready for the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers after being rested Thursday night during the Ravens' 21-7 preseason finale victory over the Atlanta Falcons? "It's not ideal, but it's about the long term and the season opener," Birk said. "This was the smart thing to do. We're a pretty veteran group. We know how to handle little blips on the screen. We'll work our butts off the next 10 days to get ready."

Birk has been practicing for nearly an entire week. "It's coming," he said. "It just needs a little bit more time."

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