Ravens not panicking after rough debut

WESTMINSTER -- One horrendous interception, multiple dropped passes and a helmet microphone glitch won't require another trip back to the drawing board for the Baltimore Ravens' supposedly revamped passing game.

While the most scrutinized player on the offense – quarterback Kyle Boller – and major point of emphasis – creating a crisp, productive aerial game – performed unevenly in the Ravens' 16-3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the team isn't panicking.

Actually, it's the opposite reaction after their first preseason game despite ranking 31st in passing a year ago.

Whether it's Boller detailing why he threw the interception to linebacker Ed Hartwell minutes into the game or receiver Clarence Moore discussing how he dropped a well-thrown pass in the end zone, the Ravens seem to be taking a rough debut in a constructive manner.

"That first play, I tried to squeeze it in a boundary, trying to force the ball. I should have held the ball, just throw it away," said Boller, who went 5-for-9 for 57 yards with no touchdowns for a 35.2 quarterback rating. "They won that play. I formatted it wrong by putting the tight end in the boundary when I should have put him on the field side.

"I didn't see the corner. I held the ball a half-second longer and [Hartwell] was reading my eyes the whole way. A couple weeks down the road we'll have that good chemistry we're looking for."

Collectively, the Ravens' quarterbacks completed only 13 of 31 passes for 143 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns for a combined quarterback rating of 29.4.

After Boller's miscue -- one where he called his own play because he couldn't hear offensive coordinator Jim Fassel's call in his helmet -- he found tight end Darnell Dinkins with a 15-yard strike on the next series. Yet, Moore dropped a pass later in the drive.

Early in the second quarter, Boller located Moore 30 yards downfield down to the Falcons' 7. Then, Moore dropped his second pass as he bobbled a sharp spiral in the end zone.

For a 6-foot-6 target who represents the Ravens' top red-zone threat and is starting opposite veteran Derrick Mason, it was a flustering way to start the preseason.

"We've obviously got some things to work out," Moore said. "I should have come down with a couple of those ones. Definitely, you get disappointed in yourself. We have a lot of potential definitely. We have the tools. We just need to use them."

Those tools, especially newcomers like Mason, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and first-round draft pick Mark Clayton, went largely unused in their first game.

The Ravens didn't do much to build a connection with either player. Mason caught one pass for five yards and Clayton had a 6-yard catch.

"I wanted to get the ball more to Derrick and Mark, but there's only so many plays to do that," offensive coordinator Jim Fassel said. "In the preseason, you have only a few plays to get something going so nobody's stats are going to be impressive."

Because neither Mason or Clayton was fully utilized along with factoring in the absence of Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap and running back Jamal Lewis, it was a generally incomplete picture of the team's offensive potential.

However, the showing left many observers wondering if it's more unproductive business than usual for the passing game.

"Besides the interception, we played pretty well as a unit," said Mason, the intended target on Boller's slant route. "These are correctable things. Kyle knows if he sees that read again, he won't make that throw when it's bunched up like that. I think those first-game jitters are out of everyone's systems and we can go play football now."

Boller did adeptly escape pressure against a mobile defense. And the running game thrived as Baltimore piled up 116 yards on 27 carries, including 55 yards from Chester Taylor.

"Protection was excellent and we ran the ball very well," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Kyle, I thought, played extremely well. We had some drops that will cost you, but I am confident that we'll be able to make those plays in the future."

Inside the Ravens' locker room Saturday night, Boller struck a much different stance than the worry he would have felt as a rookie. Entering his third season as a starter -- a pivotal one for his future and the organization's -- he appears much better equipped to grasp a mistake and deal with the fallout.

"It's not the end of the world," Boller said. "When you're a rookie, it's like, ‘Oh my God.' You can't let something like that affect you."

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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