Ravens take a sloppy step back

BALTIMORE -- It was a sloppy, awkward step backwards for the Baltimore Ravens in an outing marred by a flurry of yellow flags, busted assignments and a general lack of focus. Following a pristine debut last week, the Ravens unraveled at times Sunday night against the New York Giants in a 13-12 defeat at M&T Bank Stadium. Their execution was nowhere near sharp, and the Giants weren't much better.

There were several glaring errors, including nine penalties by the Ravens in the first half alone. The letdown followed the team breaking training camp Saturday in Westminster when Ravens coach Brian Billick warned the players that they were susceptible to fading intensity.

"That was a disappointing first half," Billick said. "We made mistakes and committed penalties after not doing either of those last week. I thought we'd have better focus, I really did. "You can't blame it on breaking camp. That shouldn't be a factor. It's not like we were hours away and had to travel back to our homes."

Veteran quarterback Steve McNair forced a throw intended for Demetrius Williams into double coverage with cornerback Sam Madison easily intercepting the misfired deep ball.

The Ravens were penalized four times in the first quarter, including first-round draft pick Ben Grubbs' false start prior to the first snap of his NFL starting debut.

"Too inconsistent for us," tight end Todd Heap said. "We need to come back and show a little bit more consistency like we did last week. But that's unacceptable. We've got to be able to eliminate the penalties and be able to move the ball down the field."

McNair completed 5 of 8 passes for 29 yards, no touchdowns and a 29.7 quarterback rating.

Baltimore went three-and-out on its initial drive. Both of the Ravens' first two drives didn't cross the 50-yard line. Their third drive stalled deep in Giants territory as McNair's quarterback sneak was shut down for no gain.

"It just wasn't there," McNair said. "It started off wrong with penalties, and I had a turnover. We've just got to continue to work and improve. It's something that's better to happen now than later."

Nickel back Corey Ivy, playing in place of injured starter Samari Rolle, and safety Ed Reed were caught out of position on an Eli Manning touchdown pass to Steve Smith. He threaded the football in between the zone for a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter to cap an eight-play, 80-yard drive.

Last year's top-ranked defense allowed Manning to complete 10 of 13 passes for 114 yards with no interceptions and a 128.4 rating.

"That's unacceptable," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "We're playing fast and physical, but that wasn't our best. That first half didn't reflect the way the Ravens play defense."

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis took a forearm shiver from Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey on a 15-yard catch, punishing the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year along the sidelines.

"We're supposed to get better every time we play," Lewis said. "We weren't in the first half. We had too many penalties, too many yards. That's not our football. That's not our standard. I don't think it was so much mental errors. I just think it was over-aggressiveness.

"Guys were fired up a little too much and just jumped offsides when we should be keying on the ball. We're a veteran ball club, we can't let things like that happen."

Backup quarterback Kyle Boller hesitated, holding the ball so long that he was rocked by Giants defensive lineman Fred Robbins. Boller, who completed 6 of 9 passes for 73 yards, was late on an incomplete fade pass to receiver Clarence Moore on a predictable route shadowed by two defensive backs.

Kicker Matt Stover connected on a 47-yard field goal with 1:25 remaining in the first half. "We have a lot of work to do," Boller said. "It was one of those games where I think we hurt ourselves."

There were some bright spots mixed in. Especially the gritty running of backup Mike Anderson, who rambled for 37 yards on three carries, including a 21-yard burst up the middle. Meanwhile, former Pro Bowl running back Willis McGahee was limited to just six yards on three attempts, an average of 0.5 per carry.

The Ravens didn't have nearly as much hard luck as the Giants, who lost former Baltimore safety Will Demps to a dislocated elbow, receiver Michael Jennings to a ruptured Achilles' tendon, Smith to a concussion and cornerback Sam Madison to a hamstring injury.

Rolle and wide receiver Mark Clayton both left the game with right ankle injuries, but X-rays were negative after being assisted into the locker room for treatment.

They were diagnosed with sprained ankles and it wasn't clear how long they will be out.

"I don't know the extent of it," Billick said. "I think we should be okay, but obviously one of the good things about preseason is that we still have three weeks before the opener. So whatever the injuries are, hopefully they can bounce back from them."

Overall, it was a rough night for Baltimore with the best news being a lack of crippling injuries and that these games don't count in the standings. During the second half, the Ravens manufactured a strong pass rush with undrafted rookie outside linebacker Edgar Jones getting a piece of two sacks. Giants kicker Josh Huston booted a 50-yard field goal with12:42 left.

In the battle for the third quarterback job, Drew Olson got the first shot. Unlike last week's sterling performance, though, he completed just 1 of 4 passes for 6 yards.

Meanwhile, Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith took advantage of outstanding field position granted by rookie speedster Yamon Figurs' 52-yard kickoff return.

Smith located tight end Kendrick Ballantyne for a 14-yard first down, rushing for eight yards, but the drive stalled and British kicker Rhys Lloyd hit a 40-yard field goal with 9:57 to play.

Linebacker Jamar Enzor missed an open-field tackle on a 44-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw that set up a 30-yard Huston field goal.

Smith completed 4 of 8 passes for 60 yards, and set up Lloyd's 38-yard field goal.

Baltimore had 11 penalties for 66 yards and New York committed 10 for 101 yards.

"If I was to change anything, I would tell my guys, ‘Take a couple of deep breaths, keep your composure and stop being so overly aggressive,' because we can do that," Lewis said. "We're not going to play a perfect football game. The bottom line is, for our standards, we had too many mistakes."

NOTE: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata incurred a bursa sac injury.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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