Ravens shut out Falcons

BALTIMORE – Kyle Boller began the football game looking rather rough around the edges while throwing passes through the raindrops.<br> <br> In his first game since injuring his quadriceps last November, the Baltimore Ravens' second-year quarterback was initially victimized by sacks and underthrown passes.<br> <br>

By the time the Ravens completed a 24-0 victory over the Atlanta Falcons to open the preseason Thursday night before 69,299 at M&T Bank Stadium, the picture on Boller appeared much more optimistic.

Meanwhile, the team learned that Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis will face trial on federal drug conspiracy charges Nov. 1 in Atlanta.

Boller engineered his first scoring drive of the year. The second-year quarterback capped a 13-play, 95-yard march in the second quarter with a crisp 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Wilcox. Overall, Boller's mechanics and fundamentals appeared somewhat improved from his rookie season.

"I had some happy feet the first couple of series and then settled down," said Boller, who completed 5-of-9 passes for 56 yards and no interceptions for a 111.3 passer rating. "I felt pretty good in the end."

Despite errant spirals that landed shy of their intended targets – receivers Devard Darling and Randy Hymes – Boller regained his poise. He found Kevin Johnson for 23 yards and 7 yards before hitting Wilcox in stride in the end zone.

"You can't think of a preseason game as, ‘Well, let's just get through this thing,'" Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I think we played with some passion, but we need to play better."

Lewis, who rushed for a league-high 2,066 yards last season, gained just 14 yards on six carries.

"Put it in God's hands and move on," said All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis of Jamal Lewis' impending legal situation. "He's handling it. He's been handling it. He'll be okay. We'll be okay."

In relief of Lewis, Chester Taylor rushed for 47 yards on seven carries, looking far more authoritative than Musa Smith.

Defensively, the Ravens handled Michael Vick and rookie backup Matt Schaub with ease.

One year after breaking his leg against the Ravens on a tackle by linebacker Adalius Thomas, Vick was risked for just one series.

Vick handed the football off twice, was sacked by blitzing safety Will Demps and promptly took a seat on the bench.

"It was great to get the first hit," Demps said. "I credit my teammates for opening the hole. It allowed me to get that sack against Michael Vick."

Return specialist Lamont Brightful fumbled away the punt after the defensive stop, jeopardizing his hold on his starting job to rookie Derek Abney. Abney returned one punt without incident for six yards.

Schaub was intercepted twice by cornerbacks Fred Weary and Raymond Walls. Weary dashed 49 yards for a touchdown with 1:45 remaining in the first half off a dropped pass to rookie receiver Michael Jenkins.

Gary Baxter and Corey Fuller started at cornerback, and Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed operated at nickel back in obvious passing situations. Chad Williams took over Reed's strong safety spot with linebacker Bart Scott playing for Williams at dime back.

In the first half, the Falcons converted only 3-of-9 third downs for 114 net yards with sacks from Demps and Kelly Gregg.

"Our first unit played Ravens football," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "They were physical and ran to the ball."

In the third quarter, backup quarterback Kordell Stewart hit Wilcox, who's gaining ground in the battle for the third tight end spot, for a 10-yard touchdown.

Stewart scrambled for 17 yards on two carries, but completed only 2-of-7 passes for 17 yards with no interceptions.

Matt Stover booted a 38-yard field goal to make it 24-0 with 4:44 left in the third quarter.

"We came out sluggish, but when we slowed things down and took our time, we got things right and worked into a groove," tight end Todd Heap said. "Scoring that touchdown set a good tone for us."

NOTES: Cornerback Chris McAlister (contract dispute), quarterback Anthony Wright (shoulder), running back B.J. Sams (thumb), linebacker Peter Boulware (knee), defensive tackle Matt Zielinski (knee), offensive tackle Orlando Brown (family illness), receiver Travis Taylor (groin) and tight end Trent Smith (leg) didn't play. … Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh coached from the press box, switching places with quarterbacks and receivers coach David Shaw. Senior consultant Jim Fassel coached half the game from the field before moving upstairs. … Nose guard Maake Kemoeatu had a sack, and rookie linebacker Roderick Green got a piece of a sack. .. Bennie Anderson started at right offensive guard ahead of Casey Rabach.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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