Ravens film study:

This morning I re-watched most of the first half of the Ravens-Falcons preseason game to see how the starters opened their 2012 season. I'm only writing about the time the starters were in for. Here's what I saw.

Falcons receive the ball to start the game:

The Ravens opened in a sub package, with Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee and Albert McClellan lined up on the defensive line. Linebacker Paul Kruger started the game rushing the quarterback and this unit gained absolutely no ground attacking the quarterback.

At one point Ngata appeared slow off the snap and got double teamed. There was no penetration from this unit against Atlanta's offensive line.

Cornerback Cary Williams had a tough time against Falcons receiver Julio Jones in real time, but with it slowed down it was evident Jones is going to be an elite wideout sooner than later. Williams is a big corner who's used to jam receivers at the line. Early, Williams attempted this and got pushed back with force from Jones. Williams did a good job of staying with Jones, but Jones just made the better play. Williams did have to back off in coverage after getting pushed back, which opened up a quick curl. Jones finished his first quarter with six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. His score came over Williams from seven yards out, and was an acrobatic leap that Williams could do little about.

Baltimore's first possession:

The Falcons showed an outside blitz but delayed it up the middle. Joe Flacco read this and hit Torrey Smith on an out route for a two-yard gain. It didn't look like anything deep was going to develop and this was by design. It was a good thing, because Flacco didn't have much time to do anything else.

On second-and-7, left tackle Michael Oher seemed to think Baltimore was pass blocking instead of in a run play. He stepped back and then moved forward. He got beat and Ray Rice only managed one yard on the play. On third-and-6, Flacco had to check down to receiver Anquan Boldin as Atlanta's five-man rush brought enough heat to hurry things. It looked like Jacoby Jones had an intermediate route but it was unclear if he was breaking open based on the TV copy at my disposal.

Atlanta's second possession:

This was Baltimore's starters' best defensive series as it forced a three-and-out. Linebacker Jameel McClain tipped a pass from Ryan. The defensive line also forced Ryan to roll out to his right, and though he hit Drew Davis, Davis' toe was on the sideline and ruled out of bounds.

Baltimore's second possession:

Flacco audibled at the line of scrimmage and ended up getting the ball to Boldin for about six yards on a crossing route (Boldin ran an out from the slot, Smith ran a slant from outside). The next play was a toss sweep to Rice that lost a yard. This was because rookie center Gino Gradkowski whiffed when attempting to block Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas. Nicholas then burst through the line and blew the play up.

On third down, the outside receivers ran deep with Boldin and tight end Ed Dickson working over the middle. Nicholas had Dickson covered and the ball fell incomplete. Everyone was covered, adding to Flacco's early frustrations in the game.

The ensuing punt was horribly covered as multiple special teams players sold out on Atlanta's Franks moving to his left. Franks cut back and got the ball down to Baltimore's 15.

Atlanta's third possession:

This was the play of the game for Baltimore, as linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo picked off Ryan on first down. From the snap Ryan looked Roddy White's way. Ayanbadejo dropped two steps backward into coverage and immediately recognized where Ryan wanted to go. He then took a couple of steps diagonally to his left, and by the time the ball came out of Ryan's hands it looked like Ayanbadejo was his intended target. Ryan never saw Ayanbadejo, who trucked it 40 yards in the other direction.

Baltimore's third possession:

It was another three-and-out for the Ravens, which started extremely slow for the night. On first down, Baltimore's line executed perfectly, sliding it's protection left to move Atlanta's defense. This allowed Flacco to play fake and roll the other way, creating another pocket (with a good block from Kelechi Osemele.) Flacco had Jacoby Jones open for a touchdown but overthrew him by about five yards. Flacco will see this play and kick himself over it. It should've been a touchdown.

After Dickson false started, Flacco handed the ball to Rice on a draw. Rice would've had more room if he would've cut to his right to try and get to the sideline. Instead, he cut up the middle and only got a few yards (easier said than done in the moment, so that's not really a criticism). On third down, nothing was open so Flacco elected to run. It looked like he had at least some room to work with but he tripped over left guard Bobbie Williams' leg. Three series, three punts.

Atlanta's fourth possession:

Ryan does a beautiful play fake that sucks in Baltimore's linebackers. This allows Julio Jones to run straight at Lardarius Webb and then cut right behind the linebackers in the seam. Great play execution from Atlanta. Two plays later, Webb keeps Julio Jones from getting position on a deep ball.

The passing attack set up the run on the next play because Atlanta telegraphed where it wanted to go pre-snap. A tight end motioned to the left and that's where Rodgers took the ball. Falcons guard Garrett Reynolds pulled and helped opened up a big hole for Rodgers to run nine yards in. Rodgers got three more yards on the same play on second down, only to the right side instead.

On first down, Rodgers lined up wide left. White and fullback Mike Cox lined up to the right. All three motioned — White moved close to the line, Rodgers moved to tailback and Cox lined up as an H-back. The defensive line was then engaged on the counter as Rodgers got by defensive tackle Ryan McBean. He headed into the secondary before safety Bernard Pollard tackled him. It was another well-executed play from Atlanta.

Rodgers scored on the next play on a draw, with Davis providing a key block. Atlanta went up 14-0.

Baltimore's fourth possession:

This is where Baltimore finally put it together and sustained a long drive.

On first down, Torrey Smith potentially had an option route and turned it into a curl, sitting inside the zone defense. He caught a low pass for six yards.

On second down, Flacco was sacked after Dickson slipped on his route. But Flacco should've had more time. Atlanta ran a simple stunt, one you'd see at the high school level. Gradkowski engaged with defensive tackle Travian Robertson, and it appeared left guard Bobbie Williams thought that was his defender. When it was too late, fellow Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry was running up an open gap with middle linebacker Akeem Dent trailing. Rice picked up Jerry, which left Dent as a free blitzer heading straight for Flacco. The mistake was likely communication-related and something that should be easily fixed.

On third-and-12, Flacco got good protection and delivered a good ball to Smith for a first down. With a new set of downs, Anthony Allen was given a chance to work at running back. Allen showed a slow burst, along with Atlanta's defensive line winning the battle up front.

Smith followed his previous play up with a first down, coming across on a dig route. Dent overpursued the play, which left Smith open across the middle. The next play was a Cam Cameron staple, a play action fake to fullback Vonta Leach. Leach crushed Franks and bulldozed his way for a first down. It was good execution by Leach but it's a play easily sniffed out.

Flacco scrambled for three yards on the next play to avoid the rush. Osemele was beat by defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, but did just enough to allow Flacco to move around. On second-and-7, Allen ran for six yards but could've had more. It was almost as if he ran with his head down, running straight into Osemele's back. If he cuts right and avoids his right tackle, he has a first down.

On third-and-1, Jacoby Jones stutter stepped Falcons cornerback Robert McClain and gained inside position on a slant for eight yards. Two plays later, Flacco finds Dickson for a touchdown. Atlanta only rushed four and it was picked up, which gave time for Flacco to properly read through his progressions. Dickson hinted like he was going right before taking a hard step in that direction. This got Dent to bite, which allowed Dickson to move back toward the open seam. Flacco delivered a crisp ball that Dickson brought down for the score. This cut the lead to 14-7 and the starters exited the game.

Final observations: Flacco looked sharp on his final drive and really didn't have a bad game altogether. Clearly, there are still some kinks to work out on the offensive line, though, and that could change when center Matt Birk is ready to go in the regular season.

On defense, the pass rush from the starters was practically non-existent. It's just a preseason game and the Ravens didn't watch any Atlanta film. But Atlanta's offensive line was seen as suspect and it won the battle against Baltimore's front seven.

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